How Poison Lucked Out With First Record Deal
Bret Michaels said Poison lucked out with a “superstar royalty rate” in their first record deal, because no one thought their debut album was going to sell.
When the band signed a bargain-basement contract with Enigma Records, the label’s bosses expected the resulting LP, 1986’s Look What the Cat Dragged In, would ship something in the region of 10,000 units. Instead, it went on to sell more than 4 million copies.
In a new interview with Yahoo!, singer Michaels recalled that, after countless attempts to cut a deal in Hollywood, Poison eventually signed with Enigma after a show in San Fernando. “[They] said, ‘Look, you'd have to be your own label, distributed through us and we're going to do this deal together with Enigma Records,’” he recalled.
As a result, the band formed its own organization, Cyanide Records. “And the beauty that happened to us is they gave us a great, then-unbelievable superstar royalty rate," Michaels noted, "because they only thought we were going to sell 10 or 12,000 records, so there was not that much money to divide up.”
He noted that that "the thought in my brain was, ‘Hell, no, I'm going for platinum!’ But the other side of it was we kept our publishing [rights]. ... And anyone who knows the amount now – what, 40, 50 million records, digital downloads, DVDs, all that stuff? It's turned out to be an amazing day.”
The record’s success assured Poison’s future, meaning they were able to put their life of poverty behind them. “We lived behind a dry cleaner,” said Michaels, who had to manage his diabetes the whole time. “They only used half of it, and they said, ‘You guys can sleep in the back of the dry cleaner.’ … But we survived. Any way we could find to work, any kind of job, whatever. And a lot of fans, they'd come down, and if they brought us a pizza, we would make that pizza last for literally close to a week. We'd ration out pieces, and I'd lower my insulin!”
See the Top 100 Albums of the '80s