Moby Says The Major Record Labels 'Should Die'

from the again dept

Moby is no stranger to speaking out against the major record labels. After the original Jammie Thomas ruling, he spoke out saying that the RIAA should be disbanded. More recently, he's highlighted how giving away free music has been helpful in making money and pointed out that the major record label's entire strategy seems based on trying to "make the future die." So it's hardly surprising to hear him say that he thinks the major labels should die. Of course, that's just the quip that gets the attention. His full statement is a lot more nuanced and relevant:
"There was a time when the music business was incredibly monolithic and there were only two ways to get your music heard: sign to a major label, get your music played on MTV and get it played by big radio stations," Moby continued. "Thank God, that period has come to an end... Signing to a major, for 99.9% of the musicians on the planet, is the worst thing they could do... They've treated musicians badly. They've treated fans badly. They've treated the music badly, most importantly. For that reason, they either need to reinvent themselves or die quietly."
And that's the key point. They don't have to "die." They could reinvent themselves, but they've shown little indication that they're really interested in doing so. But the earlier point is also important: in the past you needed a major label deal to be successful. They were the gatekeeper. These days, you no longer need such a deal. A record label deal could still make sense for some artists if the labels are smart about things, and can actually help enable those artists, but artists now have a lot more options -- and signing to a traditional record label, where you basically sign over everything for what's effectively a pretty small loan, is not a very good business move.

I think we'll see a lot more interesting label deals start appearing, where the musicians actually have a lot more leverage and are able to relegate the labels to being supporting players, rather than the main dogs. So far, the majors have been resisting those types of deals, but I think they'll have to start caving pretty soon if they want to survive.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    thublihnk (profile), Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 2:22pm

    And the Music Industry says Moby should die.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 2:38pm

    Distribute it any way you want. If a band is good, their audience will find them.

    The cream always rises to the top. Always has, always will.

     

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      Chargone (profile), Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 2:59pm

      Re:

      'build it, and they will come', even.

       

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      weneedhelp (profile), Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 3:00pm

      Re: The cream always rises to the top

      Or... the crap we put together with a generic pop sound, flashy girls, cute guys, and then push it to the mindless masses. Sounds about right.

       

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      fogbugzd (profile), Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 3:12pm

      Re:

      >>The cream always rises to the top. Always has, always will.

      Except that the definition of "cream" and "top" have changed.

      Old definition of cream: What the record labels were looking for
      New definition of cream: What the fans are looking for

      Old definition of Top: Hit the lottery with recording deal
      New definition of Top: Getting your music heard and earning a living making music you love

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 4:11pm

      Re:

      How do you explain lady gaga then?

       

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      grumpy (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 2:19am

      Re:

      Cream is not the only thing that rises to the top... To quote the Immortal PTerry (from memory so errors may have sneaked in): "The cream of society, or rather what was found floating on top and was therefore safest to call the cream". I do *not* want to start a flame war so no examples. :-)

       

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    RadialSkid (profile), Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 2:57pm

    I'm not sure the major labels could ever reinvent themselves...they've simply become too tarnished.

     

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      cc (profile), Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 3:10pm

      Re:

      I wonder, what will the majors' demise be like?

      Will the assets of the thousands of small labels that constitute them be broken up and sold off? Will their back catalogs be broken up and auctioned off to independent labels and artist estates/copyright trolls?

      Tbh, their death throes are disastrous to everything around them, but I really don't know what'll happen when they finally implode and fall apart.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 3:40pm

        Re: Re:

        Sorry to break the bad news, but record labels are never going to go away. When one dies, 8 more pop up. It's like a hydra.

         

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          RadialSkid (profile), Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 5:03pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          We're not talking about record labels. We're talking about the major record labels...the "Big Four" and their subsidiaries.

          Smaller labels will probably stick around, but even they'll play less or a role after the majors die out.

           

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            Anonymous, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 5:45pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            LOL The major labels aren't going to die off either; you think Sony and Universal are going to go away?

            I bet you believe in the Easter bunny too.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 5:49pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You do realize the Big Four are now the Big Three, right?

               

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              RadialSkid (profile), Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 9:50pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              you think Sony and Universal are going to go away?

              I give them about 20 years, tops.

               

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              The eejit (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 12:21am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Um, Sony are in a serious financial situation due to the PS3 being sold at a considerable loss, and NBC Universal are in similar straits due to buying a massive loss-leader.

              Unless something major happens, they'll die in a fire of their own making.

               

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                Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 12:42am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Um, Sony are in a serious financial situation due to the PS3 being sold at a considerable loss, and NBC Universal are in similar straits due to buying a massive loss-leader.

                Universal Music has nothing to do with NBC Universal.

                Universal Music is an entirely separate company owned by Vivendi.

                 

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 2:15am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              LOL The major labels aren't going to die off either; you think Sony and Universal are going to go away?

              Well, there used to be like 5 or 6 major label. Then there were four. Now another has fallen and were down to three. So yeah, I think Sony and Universal are likely to go away.

              Especially Sony. Not only have the major labels earned a huge amount of animosity among consumers, but Sony itself earns more and more "goodwill" among consumers on a daily basis. So Sony is getting a one-two punch on almost a regular basis these days.

              There not going down without a fight, though. SO far they've manages to lock up most of the larger avenues for independent artist and labels. First it was muscling in on MySpace making them irrelevant (although they had a lot of help from other quarters making that site irrelevant), then it was muscling in on eMusic (sucks too, because I used to buy a lot of music from eMusic before the major labels moved in and started plastering there wares all over the place relegating the independent music to closet where you had to dig for it).

              The simple fact is that for years the major labels have survived by turning their "clients" into little more than indentured servants, and people went along with it because there were no real options. Now people have options. It's taken about ten years for those options to start gaining traction, and if nothing changes I'd give it about five more years before the labels die.

              But that's if nothing changes (which is why the industry is trying so hard to push secret agendas like ACTA).

               

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                Anonymous, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 4:15am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                EMI hasn't found a new owner yet, guy.

                All this talk that there are only 3 or 4 majors left is most amusing.

                There are basically the same amount of majors as there ever were, they've all just been bought by larger companies.

                Who aren't going anywhere. Sorry. whaaaaaaa.

                 

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                  cc (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 4:50am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Hey Coward, what if EMI doesn't find a new owner, so it's just torn up and sold off? Or, what if it's bought by another of the majors?

                  Since you are so much in the know, you must know their biggest problem is their artists leaving them. No artists, no label.

                  And thus, in the most likely scenario, the four will become three; in turn, the prospects of the three becoming zero become even greater.

                  Ohmigod, my masters are dying! whaaaaaaa.

                   

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                  Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 6:14am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Exactly they were bought by bigger companies, how long until they get cheap enough so Microsoft or Google buy them?

                  We can wait and see, the 3 remaining coalesce into one and get bankrupt, to be then bought at the price of bananas by some tech company, then you new boss could be doing the monkey dance and screaming artists! artists! on stage some day LoL

                   

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              Hephaestus (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 7:30am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Anonymouse .... The labels are seeing major competition from inside and outside the music industry for peoples time and money. Their piece of the pie has shrunk, and will continue to shrink. I wrote this a couple months back ...

              "Its less than five years before the final three fail. With EMI out of the picture, and their catalog now in limbo, its only a matter of time. No record label can pick up the catalog, as it would add to much debt and accelerate the failure of that company. If one of the final three does pick up the catalog, the math says thats the next label to fail.

              Determining which of the final three labels will fail next is based on debt to earnings ratio. The lower the debt to earnings the less likely that company will fail next. The problem is that the number is above 50% no matter which label picks up the catalog. 60%,72%,85% +-5%

              When you get to the final two the numbers for who will fail first if they buy the combined catalogs jump to 88% +-4%, and 94% +-2%. Again depending on debt to earnings of the purchaser.

              If the catalog is split between the final three or final two it doesn't change the timeline of when they will fail, just who fails first. And that again is based on debt to earnings.

              Here is the kicker. If no one picks up the catalog it devalues the remaining companies catalogs and accelerates the failure of the final three. So they are between a rock and a seriously hard place here."

              Basically they are boned, and will fail within 10 years with almost 100 percent certainty.

               

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 3:11pm

    I only like 2 moby songs, and I never have agreed with any of his views until now, crap my live is hell I agree with moby!

     

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    Jay (profile), Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 3:20pm

    A thought...

    Before I read the article, I was thinking that perhaps Moby means that the old idea of a label has to die. Sites have change along with ways of doing business or else we would stagnate as a society.

     

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      andrew, Jul 4th, 2012 @ 6:43am

      Re: A thought...

      i think this comment is very rapy and i dont like the context it is used in so i think this person should be prosecuted and taken under concideration of murder.

       

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    Noel Coward, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 3:23pm

    We Need Record Labels

    Come on guys, your assessment is far too biased and brutal.

    We NEED record labels,....like we need blood banks.
    It keeps the music industry ALIVE!

    Though I do have reservations about VAMPIRES running blood banks, as there could be a conflict of interest. Some might say the same about "CERTAIN MAJOR RECORD LABELS" ;)

    Gotta say though, Moby watch out Captain Ahab the di*kle$$ wants your gonads, apparently their as big bowling balls.
    Or is that whales?

    Anyhow, the internet is very big seas indeed. Given that the distribution model has changed drastically, cant see how they justify the extortionate nature of their deals brokered.

    Me thinks there should be international laws to prevent such companies seeking to take advantage of musicians and artists, anything less is immoral.

    Such laws exist elsewhere and minimum awards and base rates should apply. I cannot understand how a successful artist can still be in HUGE debt years after having already made the charts and sold enough records to net the label no small fortune.

    Well actually I do understand how, and I have seen why and the tactics they use and its diabolical, immoral and certainly on the verge of criminality.

    What surprises me is that musicians for all their political pull they've exerted in the name of a good cause. Have never formed a union or organization to protect their lot in any effective manner. One only need to look at Hollywood and the motion picture guild for actors and see how much they make for energy put in and you quickly realize musicians are some poor distant cousin.

    They kind of remind me of battery hens, with the Labels waiting patiently behind for one to lay a GOLDEN EGG.

    Wooo Hooo! .... Next.

     

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    Arnold Ziffle, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 3:36pm

    So What?

    This is "tech dirt?"

     

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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 4:38pm

    I don't mind the industry dying...

    but I'm with Moby: could it at least do it quietly, instead of kicking and screaming and trying to drag everybody else down with it?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 6:35pm

    "nobody listens to techno".

     

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      PaulT (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 2:46am

      Re:

      I always thought that was a very American point of view, especially as Eminem is from the same town where techno was invented... It reminded me a lot of the "white kids aren't interested in hip-hop" stance taken by MTV in the 80s.

      Interestingly, Moby had already had 11 UK top 40 hits before Play was released, and 10 of those were before Eminem's first album. Hate of "techno" seemed to be a uniquely American thing for a while - the rest of us were in Ibiza for the summer :)

       

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    Noel Coward, Mar 3rd, 2011 @ 8:19pm

    BIG Label Versus Indie

    I think a more defined trim version of some Indie labels should stick around. As Artists will always need some form of marketing help at some stage.

    Though no one need those parasitic Goliaths that need to justify their largess.

    Though "most" current Indie labels adopt unethical renumeration strategies. This abusive behavior needs to stop. Musicians weren't breed as special hosts for these parasites to survive. They're called HUMANS not slaves!

    What would Abraham Lincoln say?
    I do recall a war fought over such things once.

     

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      Anonymous, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 4:23am

      Re: BIG Label Versus Indie

      Musicians are currently slaves to people like you that rip them off.

      You're all douchebags and you know it. You just come here hoping you'll find some like-minded asshats to rationalize your indefensible behavior.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 5:16am

        Re: Re: BIG Label Versus Indie

        I once ripped off a musician so bad they were forced to get a real job!

         

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        Planespotter (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 5:23am

        Re: Re: BIG Label Versus Indie

        Just bought another album, 13 tracks in WAV format straight from the bands FTP server, Paypal'd the cash straight to them... best thing of all, apart from the paltry few cents that Paypal creamed off the top every other cent went to the band, love it!

         

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        The eejit (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 9:14am

        Re: Re: BIG Label Versus Indie

        You mean like, covering up the rape of little boys; or the destruction of the seas off the south coast of the US mainland; or the rape of democracy in the name of 'copyright', the false idol of modern society?

        um, how about NO.

         

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        PaulT (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 9:16am

        Re: Re: BIG Label Versus Indie

        "Musicians are currently slaves to people like you that rip them off."

        Hey, did I miss something? Where did he say he worked for a major label?

        Oh, I forgot, it's you.... Somebody who opposes the current broken system just has to be a "pirate", right? Even somebody who clearly advocates indie labels. It's a damn shame people with your moronic mentality are in charge, but at least that's changing.

         

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        RadialSkid (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 11:52am

        Re: Re: BIG Label Versus Indie

        This douchebag happily downloads music offered for free by the artists, and doesn't listen to material produced by entitled whiners who expect monetary donations first.

        Who the hell am I ripping off?

         

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    Jesse Townley (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 11:57am

    Adapt or die...

    That's key. Everyone with brains and/or who are small enough to be flexible is adapting. We are (Alternative Tentacles). We're also a smaller company in terms of staff then we were even 3 years ago.

    We know that people can find our music for free. We work with our fans and engage them and people reciprocate & pay for the music because they want to support the bands and outspoken art/music.

    Record labels (in general) are still important- as gatekeepers/filters. A label's identity & connections are important. For instance, people know when they see our bat logo that Jello Biafra loves the record they're holding enough to put $ behind it. In the 1990s, people knew that Lookout meant Green Day/MTX/Queers/Screeching Weasel pop punk. They know that Anticon means quality independent-minded backpack hip-hop, Dischord means thoughtful post-punk/acoustic (and blazing hardcore punk early on) backed by Ian MacKaye, etc etc.

    I feel like I'm just repeating myself in these kinds of threads, so I'll end this post here.

     

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    john Aho, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    Self publishing...

    With tunecore an artist can self publish to online music stores and get a HUGE cut of the action. For every $1 sale you get like .60-75 cents off an itunes sale.


    The problem comes in promotion, quality and name recognition.

     

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    jd, Dec 1st, 2013 @ 1:30am

    Truth be told, record companies are evil but then you need a system to filter out the crap, a lot of people out there living under dellusions of grandeur thinking they have talent when they don't.

     

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