Making Money Without A Record Label

from the download-givva dept

Record labels have been slow to adapt their business models in the face of a changing technological and competitive environment, implementing new ideas in limited areas in limited quantities. On the other hand, bands that have shunned record labels are -- often quite successfully -- figuring out new ways to make a living. The band Harvey Danger, which had a one-hit wonder several years ago, has gotten back together and moved forward without a record label, deciding to let people download its newest album for free in hopes of maximizing the number of people that will hear their music and potentially become fans. It then makes money by selling physical CDs, t-shirts and other items. The band acknowledges that the name recognition its hit single affords it gives it a big advantage over unknown acts offering free music, but it realizes that to succeed, it needs to cultivate and maintain a fan base, and removing any barriers to that will only help, even if it means giving up what meager returns they do see from selling their CDs through a record label. Of course the band isn't the first to go down this route, but it's another example of how free music can benefit musicians. Of course, the interests of record labels don't always coincide with the interests of the artists on their rosters.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    carrier lost, Nov 7th, 2005 @ 1:18pm

    We Want Our Shrink-Wrapped CDs


    I know this is tangential to the subject, but...

    I've said it over and over and over.

    All the record companies have to do to make a boatload of cash is to lower the price of CDs to between 5.99-6.99. I would buy at least 300 CDs just to bulk up my collection and then I would continue buying weekly, probably right up to my death.

    MjM

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Chris, Nov 7th, 2005 @ 1:31pm

    No Subject Given

    There may not be as much money changing hands by them giving away their music for free, but they'll probably get more of a cut since the record label is out of the picture.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    mlvassallo, Nov 7th, 2005 @ 1:55pm

    Re: We Want Our Shrink-Wrapped CDs

    You would spend roughly $1800 on music in one shot of they lowed the price of a CD to 6 bucks a pop? You are kidding, right?

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Jimmy Bear Pearson, Nov 7th, 2005 @ 2:01pm

    Labels good sometimes, sometimes not...

    Artists without Labels (AWL) do better with creativity than most anything else. People like myself can make any type or quality of music we wish, without the fetters of corporate individuals behind us. Of course, those with a cash cushion can also do their projects nearly as they wish.

    Labels do help with distribution, manufacture, and promotion - which are all good. In addition, Labels have resources that independents like myself do not have - quality people, equipment, and cash reserves. However, one has to take the Label's restrictions with the good.

    Free music gains fans to some extent. Fans are priceless. Fans are a major part of what it is all about.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Alex Popov, Nov 7th, 2005 @ 2:06pm

    Check CDBaby.com

    They have been helping artists for awhile.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Alex Popov, Nov 7th, 2005 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Labels good sometimes, sometimes not...

    CDBaby.com has been helping artist distribute their music for awhile..

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Luke, Nov 7th, 2005 @ 7:17pm

    Jonathan Coulton

    He is a good example of this. ALl his music is free, or you can pay for it.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Lubnuk, Nov 7th, 2005 @ 10:45pm

    Re: We Want Our Shrink-Wrapped CDs

    You must not know very much about economics. Lowering the prices doesn't equal more movement in product, and higher profits. The same is true with higher prices.


     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2005 @ 1:59am

    Re: We Want Our Shrink-Wrapped CDs

    Ya? Those economics seem to be working for DVDs.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    AC, Nov 8th, 2005 @ 6:42am

    Re: We Want Our Shrink-Wrapped CDs

    no the market will only bear whatever prices people are willing to pay. clearly $20 is more than most people are willing to pay for a music containing optical disc, not sure any of them qualify as actual cd anymore.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    jeremiah, Nov 8th, 2005 @ 7:50am

    Dear, dear Carlo....

    Carlo:

    You write: " Record labels have been slow to adapt their business models in the face of a changing technological and competitive environment..."

    I'm sorry, but this sentence is so asinine on so many levels, I literally don't know where to start.

    I guess you probably mean MAJOR labels and entertainment conglomerates, although I'm not sure how TD is qualified to assert any qualitative position about said entity's business model...

    That said, the "business model" of a record company (or for that matter, just about any entertainment producer) hasn't changed in about 100 years, despite several technological changes (the Victrola, Marconi's radio, 78's, 45's, reel-to-reel, 8-track, cassettes, compact discs, iPods) and probably won't fundamentally change going into the future, either. Sure, it may *evolve* to some degree (say, music licensing for film/tv), but beyond that...

    quote 2: "The band acknowledges that the name recognition its hit single affords it gives it a big advantage over unknown acts offering free music, but it realizes that to succeed, it needs to cultivate and maintain a fan base"

    In other words, now that we've got major-label cred, we can shun it. Oh, and the "realization" that to succeed, they need to "cultivate and maintain a fan base..." geeeez, ya think?!?? I wonder if the record label had that figured out, too. Yeah, they probably did.

    "meager returns they do see..." I assume you read the band's contract with the label? Otherwise, how could you possibly label them as "meager?"

    "OF course, the band isn't the first to go down this route..." see: Grateful Dead.

    ----

    The problem I have with this TD post is that it's lazy. Stringing together knee-jerk myths and hyperbolic/unsubstantiated claims doesn't make for techdirt. You're better than this. I'm glad you've got your eye on the entertainment biz, but highlighting another me-too former label band so desperate for attention they're literally giving their music away and trying to frame it in a "they're sticking it to THE MAN!" context is lazy and intellectually dishonest.

    I apologize if my post comes across as negative. I've got a lot to say about this subject (being a professional in the music biz), and I find it infuriating when Techdirt pulls this lazy crap. Smack Carlo for me.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    eas, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 12:18pm

    No Subject Given

    I'm a friend of one of the guys in the band. I set up the infrastructure for the online distribution and helped prepare the downloadable files, and I've been following the press covereage and blog posts avidly.

    It's interesting to see how everyone tries to turn this act (the free online release) into a story that reinforces their own biases.

    Lots and lots of people see this as a "let's stick it to the man" statement. The band's own statement on the matter doesn't give much support to such an interpretation, unless you think that a band's desire to take more responsibility for their destiny is a "F*ck you."

    Plenty of others are quick to dismiss it as a desperate act by a "one-hit-wonder" who couldn't make it on a major label. Last week, Coolfer dismissed the whole experiment as a failure based on no data or any real definition of success. This week, Jeremiah, tries to take a couple third hand statements to portray the band as spoiled brats desperate for attention.

    Of course that begs the question of what's so bad about wanting attention in the first place? Most artists want their work acknowledged, and most performers want an audience for their work. Most businessmen want attention for their products, which, in the case of the recording industry, is the work of recording artists.

    Like it or not, "giving things away" is a time honored approach to promotion. The music industry puts a lot of effort into giving music away. They send free CDs for reviewers, work to get their product on radio (even going so far as to pay "bribes"). These days, they even offer free downloads of popular album tracks.

    So, what, exactly, is wrong with a band deciding to take more responsibility for their own destiny, rather than farming it out to "professionals?"

    What's wrong with a band thinking that they might be able to cultivate and maintain a fan base without relying on a label to do it for them (or tell them what to do)?

    What's wrong with trying something new? It is something new, by the way, it's very easy to cite other similar examples, but the truth is, if you actually look at the details, the similarities start to fade. It will be a while before there are enough examples to start making authoritative conclusions about what will and won't work for bands in the era of online distribution.

    There is nothing wrong with criticizing the band or their experiment, and there is nothing wrong with criticizing coverage of same, but it doesn't really help either aim to be lazy when combining the two

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 1:40am

    Re: Dear, dear Carlo....

    That said, the "business model" of a record company (or for that matter, just about any entertainment producer) hasn't changed in about 100 years, despite several technological changes (the Victrola, Marconi's radio, 78's, 45's, reel-to-reel, 8-track, cassettes, compact discs, iPods) and probably won't fundamentally change going into the future, either.

    Uh, yeah, I suppose you could say all businesses that exchange goods or services for money use the same business model, too. You just shot your credibility right there. "Professional in the music biz"? No wonder it's in trouble.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    jeremiah, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 7:42am

    Re: No Subject Given

    "Of course that begs the question of what's so bad about wanting attention in the first place?"

    Interesting question, but not at all where I was going with my response. You're free to answer yourself, however.

    "Like it or not, "giving things away" is a time honored approach to promotion."

    "Promotion" is not analogous to "giving things away." "Promotion" insinuates an expectation of a return of some kind. To give something away is the absence of a return expectation. The music industry does not put a lot of effort into giving music away (See: Sony DRM), but does indeed put a lot of effort into promotion (See: payola.)

    "This week, Jeremiah, tries to take a couple third hand statements to portray the band as spoiled brats desperate for attention."

    Uhhhh, no. If you read my response (directed at Techdirt, not your friend's band) I was addressing the framing of the story, not the particulars. If that came across as "the band are spoiled brats," I apologize for not being more coherent.

    The "story" of a former major-label act leveraging its status to promote new work is not a new story, and at this point in the music business evolution, not particularly relevant. There are hundreds of thousands of artists doing the exact same thing (free mp3's as carrot stick to merchandising), so I fail to see how your friend's bands "me-too" act deserves mention. Again, that's not a slam against your friend's band - rather Techdirt's (IMHO lazy), regurgitative post.

    Best of luck to your friend's band.

    -j

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    jeremiah, Nov 10th, 2005 @ 7:51am

    Re: Dear, dear Carlo....

    "I suppose you could say all businesses that exchange goods or services for money use the same business model, too."

    See: Straw Man.

    -j

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Apr 15th, 2006 @ 10:19am

    Making money without a record label

    Let me start by saying that I don't know "jack s_it" about record labels or self promotion. What I do know is this, if anybody responding to this post actually does know anything about these two subjects it would not matter anyway. All you people are really concerned about is how you can make yourself look smarter and more knowledgeable than the person posting before or after you, your not really concerned with how the band "Harvey Danger" is doing presently or how they have done in the past. If you don't believe me just take another look at all the post and you will see how all of you sound like a group of children arguing amongst each other for the title of smartest "know it all". It makes me sick just to read your responses. "Harvey Danger" knows more about the subject than any of you will ever know. If they didn't then the story would be about you instead of them. Good luck to the band, and to their online future!

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    2 cent'r, Jun 6th, 2006 @ 8:49pm

    Re: Making money without a record label

    "Harvey Danger" knows more about the subject than any of you will ever know. If they didn't then the story would be about you instead of them. Good luck to the band, and to their online future!

    True, and i add my good wishes to the band.

    Old model new model who cares? If it gets the results the Band wants more power to them. If not, they will either think of another idea or quit.

    I'm just glad someone is being responsible (HD) and providing a product that gives the consumer on a more individual level to accept or reject it.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    joe, Jun 27th, 2011 @ 12:34am

    Re: Re: Labels good sometimes, sometimes not...

    They Suck!!!

     

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