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Fat Joe Exposes Major Label ‘Ponzi Scheme’ as He Reveals Decades-Old Debt to Record Companies

On a recent Instagram Live, Fat Joe shared that he remains indebted to his former record label for albums released over two decades ago. He likened the major label structure to a “Ponzi scheme.”

Fat Joe
Photo via Instagram @fatjoe

Why Fat Joe Still Owes Money

Although the precise sum owed to his previous record labels remains undisclosed, on April 3, recaptured by an IG page named “The Hip Hop Wolf,” Fat Joe points fingers at Warner Records and Atlantic Records in his sharp critique of the music industry system.

This revelation also resurfaced a video from a 2023 Wall Street Journal event where the rapper sat for an interview with reporter Jason Gay, shedding light on the challenges artists face in the industry.

According to the veteran rapper, as explained on IG, the major label system exploits artists and is similar to a “Ponzi scheme” by charging them for expenses like music videos and then owning their creative work without fair compensation.

Enjoying his later years as an independent artist and podcaster, Joe cites higher earnings despite lower album sales. The lack of transparent accounting methods employed by major labels and their failure to offer equitable compensation to artists is what Joe believes is the main issue, as stated in his IG Live rant.

“They own your s–. That’s why I say it’s a Ponzi scheme. I sold two million records, still ain’t recouped. [The 2001 album] ‘J.O.S.E.’ sold two million records. When I get my statement from the major label 20 years later, I still owe them money,” Fat Joe said on IG. “I put out an album independently on EMPIRE and get distribution. My album might sell 250,000, 300,000 records, I make millions of dollars off of it. What’s the difference?”

At The Wall Street Journal’s The Future of Everything Festival on May 4, 2023, he had the same sentiment, highlighting the non-transparent accounting methods employed by major labels and their failure to offer equitable compensation to artists.

“Artists, we’re so passionate about our story, we’re so passionate about our music,” Joe said. “I would have to go walk into an office to a guy who didn’t even really understand our art and culture. They just knew how to market, how to promote and how to make the most profit. I used to beg ’em: ‘Are you gonna push my record? Are you really gonna press the button? Are you really gonna go for it?’”

Fat Joe’s current net worth is estimated to be $4 million, and while there is no information regarding how much he earns as an independent artist, he has remained musically relevant.

According to Songkick, Fat Joe is performing across the country with four upcoming concerts in 2024.

He already completed an April 2 performance at the Apollo’s Historic Theater in New York City, which he plans on following up with a show on April 26 at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio.

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