Saturday, December 26, 2009

Record labels: the necessary evil, not any more (?)

The one thing that most musicians share (apart from the passion for music of course) is a bit of "fear" of the future. Where will my music go from here? Will people continue to listen to it? Will I be able to live on just a career in music?

For a budding unsigned musician , the goal is - How can I make my music heard? Especially in the 50's - 70's till now, the hunt for a record label was on. After a lot of begging and "trying to prove", if you get a label to even acknowledge you, it's a big deal. Okay, say the label agrees to sign you up. Here starts a long journey - of achievements and a term of "master/slave" relationship. What starts of and could be a symbiotic relationship can turn into something difficult depending on the contract. Following rules of a contract, giving away rights to one's own music, being told what kind of music to make and release can be rather demotivating and distracting for a creative musician. An example of this is greatly publicized feud between Prince and Warner Bros.

For becoming successful in the past, signing a label was compulsory. However, now the internet is changing the music industry where artists are able to freely distribute their music through file sharing. Recently, Nine inch Nails and Radiohead announced an end to their respective contracts with their record labels and have opted for "pay your own price". Now the question is, this will continue to work for already established bands. How about independent not so well artists with great potential but no exposure? Scott Perry, owner of New Music Tipsheet and Sperry Media, says. "The core roles of record labels will never change -- facilitating the marketing and distribution of an artist's work is essential," he said. "However, the rights and revenues split will be vastly different, and that will affect the role the label plays in distribution and marketing."

Research shows some nice companies like Weathervanemusic and Modlife who claim to be concerned about true musicians and undertake responsibility in promoting them on the basis of trust and goodwill. Hopefully this will change the future of the recording industry and put an end to the master/slave relationship making - record labels "helpful" for promoting artists and not a "necessary evil".