When Even Pop Boy Bands Don't Need Record Labels…

from the ...-the-record-labels-are-in-trouble dept

We’ve been pointing out why record labels should still have a place in the modern music landscape, if they’re willing to change their business models to meet with the new marketplace reality. However, if they keep doing stupid stuff, they’re not going to get very far. Reader SteveD writes in to point out that, McFly, a popular British pop boy band — the type of band that you would think is one of the few that still fits into the sweet spot of the major label marketing machine — has ditched their label and is considering “pulling a Radiohead” in letting their fans set the price. I’d encourage them to pull a Reznor instead, as the Nine Inch Nails experiments are much more well thought out in terms of the business model.

Either way, the key sentence in the article explaining why the band split from the label:

The band felt that their old label wasn’t embracing those changes and are keen to experiment with new ways of getting music to fans. Tom said: “There’s not a set way of doing things anymore. Now, especially with stuff like downloads, or giving music away, there’s so many options for what you can do.”

If that’s not an indication of a record label shooting itself in the foot, it’s hard to see what is. This is the type of band that could use a big label’s help in distributing the music in the most effective manner, and the label is refusing to help. No wonder the record labels are struggling. In this case, by the way, the label was Island, a subsidiary of Universal Music, which has been one of the most proudly thick headed labels in trying to understand the new digital landscape.

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Companies: universal music

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Comments on “When Even Pop Boy Bands Don't Need Record Labels…”

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PaulT (profile) says:

FTA: “We’re young guys and all our fans are our age. We just wanted to make a fun exciting album that we’re proud of and not worry ‘Does it fit this demographic?’ or ‘Will it be OK for radio?’. We just wanted to make the album that we enjoy making.”

In other words, the marketing “experts” were telling these guys to make records and move in directions that even they felt were wrong for their audience.

This is one of the ongoing problems with the music industry – the people in charge of selling the albums are obsessed with demographics and putting things into tiny boxes to make them “saleable”. They’re obsessed with making marketable “singles” rather than real music and targetting the perceived lowest common denominator rather than allowing artistic freedom.

The problem is that at some point, both the artists and the audience get bored and look elsewhere. McFly aren’t the worst boy band in the world (at least they were apparantly a band before getting signed to a label, rather than being manufactured by the label from a group of karaoke winners). But when even bands firmly targetted at the teen/pop audience are feeling constrained and let down by the major labels, something is seriously wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

The major labels are in trouble but if you look at all three bands mentioned they all had a major label backing and promoting them from the beginning. Once they were known they didn’t need the label any more. We are still in a world where it takes a major to break a pop band. Even that is changing but the game isn’t over yet. We’re seeing more interesting deals where the labels spend less on the front end but give the artists more freedom. That’s great for some types of music but a true pop band is always going to take a lot of money to break. I’d put my money on the labels requiring longer and longer deals that will far out live the projected lives of the bands at lest for the manufactured bands were the label can offer take it or leave it contracts.

Paula says:

I guarantee, Universal makes it hard for them to get anywhere

Presuming these guys make a good go of it alone with this, you can bet that Universal won’t be friendly. Universal owns or has major control over what content is viewed/heard where in their media empire. This includes the cheezy movies or MTV appearances… heck, they wouldn’t even get on Letterman – a Universal/CBS property.

There’s always Much music.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I guarantee, Universal makes it hard for them to get anywhere

Actually, it’s NBC/Universal, not CBS. But even if it was, Letterman has pretty good control over the show himself thanks to his production company Worldwide Pants. Remember they signed a deal with the writers during the strike months before the networks did. Though I do agree if Universal still has control over their old content, which I’m sure they probably do, any concert by this band could be dull because they might not be allowed to play those old songs that got them known!

Suzanna says:

Re: Re: I guarantee, Universal makes it hard for them to get anywhere

Mcfly have always written all their own songs and as such i fail to see how universal can stop them from performing them. To the person slating them above with no actual well thought out reason, i would say that this is the band with more number ones than Queen, U2 etc, so you are in a minority. They are a huge band with a massive fanbase. I’m a 31 year old and i have both male and female friends who saw them at v festival and were absolutely bowled over by how good they are live!!!!!! The biggest band of this decade and no amount of ‘trying to look cool’ will change that!

Kyle says:

Majors are slow and useless

Needing a major to break any band is totally not true. From a genre stand point look at country music most of the top selling chart hits in country are bands or artists that are on indy labels. Then take heavy metal, metal only exists because of the listeners and the bands or artists love for the genre and nothing more. Black Sabbath never sat down and said maybe we should leave this song or that song off the record because it might not sell to a certain demographic. Every band dreams of having a major backing from a marketing stand point to be able to make money to be able to play and write music for a living. But to me the artists that feel they have to have the major for what ever reason to me means that they are lazy pretentious artists that dont really care about their music or the fans and dont want to do the dirty work of getting their name out there the hard way and acctually have to do some work and get to know their fans for real rather than the only thing they have to think about is what they are going to wear to the MTV awards and if P Diddy will be impressed by how great their new 5000 dollar pants look and that their new single fits perfectly into the demographic of the MTV generation.

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