Indie Label That Gets It: Sell Things People Want, Not Just What They Hear

from the creative-destruction dept

We’ve been talking a lot about various musicians that seem to have adapted to the changing marketplace, and have adjusted their business models in ways that work well, but it’s good to point out the record labels that have done the same as well. There’s a myth out there that folks like us hate the record labels and want them to go away. That’s not true at all. We think there’s a great place for the record labels: to be the business arm of the musicians, to let the musicians focus on the music. But, those labels need to learn to embrace the marketplace as well. We’ve certainly seen a few who seem to have figured it out, such as Terry McBride’s Nettwerk, Martin Thornkvist’s Songs I Wish I Had Written, JY Park’s JYP Entertainment (in that same link), Open Your Eyes Records and a few others as well.

Bruce Houghton, over at Hypebot, now has a great interview with the indie label Asthmatic Kitty, where they explain “what is working” today, and it hits on a bunch of the points we often highlight around here:

I operate under the conviction that people buy records because they want to own them, not because they want to hear them. It is too easy these days to hear a record without having to buy it. I don’t resent that fact, rather I feel we at Asthmatic Kitty embrace it through streaming albums and offering several free mp3s (even whole free albums). And why do they want to own it? They want it to illustrate to others their taste and identify who they are as a person. I also believe they want to be part of something bigger than themselves, they want to belong.

Our job is no longer to sell folks things they want to hear. They want an experience and to identify themselves as part of a community. Ownership then becomes a way of them supporting your community through investing in that community. Fostering that in an honest, transparent and “non-gross” way takes a combination of gracefulness, creativity and not taking oneself too seriously, while still taking art and music seriously.

And meanwhile, we still have the major record labels whining about how there are no business models because of “piracy”?

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: asthmatic kitty

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Indie Label That Gets It: Sell Things People Want, Not Just What They Hear”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Kenneth D. Welch (user link) says:

My Own Collection

unfreakin believable…

i’ve done this VERY thing time after time again. my favorite band in the world is Green Day (Reprise Records), and when i first heard about them, i downloaded (p2p) all of their songs until i started getting into them more and more. i researched about their history, watched hours and hours of video footage, and became entranced by the band’s methods, skill, and live performances.

so much so, that after downloading about 3 albums worth of songs… i went out and bought every single album on CD to import into iTunes and my iPod Touch. then i bought every single album on vinyl record, as well as sever EPs and singles.

i’m their fkin example that p2p/free distribution of GOOD music is what helps advertise their product and maybe not right away, but people like me go out and buy the shit on every format they can find to collect their band’s projects for them to physically admire.

i’ve spend near a thousand dollars in cds, vinyl, videos, merchandise, and soon, concert tickets on Green Day ALONE in the past 2 years… tell me that isn’t what others would do if they really like what they’re listening to.

Emmy says:

Re: My Own Collection

I did the same thing with a female musician from the 70’s that most people think is dead already. I downloaded a few of her songs and ended up buying all of her music, and then I bought concert tickets, which required airline tickets and four days of hotel and travel expenses for that concert.

Since this artist isn’t a top-10 Billboard pop star, she’s very accessible to her fans through a website and she hangs out after her concerts to sign autographs. I never would have found her music at all if I hadn’t pirated it first.

Jason (profile) says:


I have a deep understanding of what it means to love and appreciate music. I do not think of music in a property or ownership kind of way and that is why I download mp3s. But I am more impressed with independent labels who choose to press vinyl as a medium. I buy only vinyl as it sounds better and does not decrease in value or diminish itself to 0’s and 1’s but rather a genuine experience for the listener. If you are an independent label or put out music in any way make sure to press wax if you want to reach the real music market. says:

Re: vinyl

Jason, vinyl does not sound better. The “fullness” you think you hear is simply the imperfections in the vinyl and the differing shapes of needle and groove causing slight pitch modulations and static. Cd’s are better quality, you probably just listen to them after ripping them, severely diminishing the sound quality due to “lossy” compression.

UnlikeLobster says:

Re: Re: Re: vinyl

…fail, I’m sorry but Jason does have a valid point. Vinyl inherently sounds better because it is analog audio. Analog is the form all sounds naturally make in this world. When music is digitized, it has to be converted into 1’s and 0’s, and no matter what format it is in, or how high the bit rate is, some part of the information is lost in the conversion. Vinyl is pure analog audio, and will always sound better than any digital source.

Society switched to CDs not because the sound quality was better, but because they were smaller, more portable, and less easily broken.

Trevlac says:

Re: vinyl

Forgive me, you claim that you prefer vinyl over compact disc medium because it does not decrease in value or diminish itself into 0’s and 1’s. You are wrong. (Fail already told you why the sound quality is worse so I won’t go into it).

Vinyl decreases in value each year. Only those items which are old and rare enough to be collectibles increase in value or stay the same. The same with anything collectible such as comic books, beanie babies, or “Just Another Shoe” Hallmark shoe statues.

As for the “diminishing” of the music into 0’s and 1’s, I’m not sure that you have a full understanding of what a record is entirely. The concept of a Turing Machine (input -> change -> output) that operates on a binary system is far older than computers, and older than even vinyl.

A system whereby a needle reads divits in a medium as either raised or lowered is a binary system. The lowered marks indicate a zero while the raised marks are ones. As the needle moves forward through time (the spiral shape of the divits), it creates a scratching sound which is amplified by equipment into music.

That having been said, computer hard drives use precisely this same technology, a needle reading up and down divits in a spinning plate to record…drumroll…0’s and 1’s. CDs contain divits which are read by a needle made of light–the optical sensor. And what exactly about simplifying something to binary data “diminishes” it in any way? That is purely subjective.

Jono (user link) says:

Re: Re: vinyl

Let’s set the record straight.

At it’s most basic level, a CD is 1’s and 0’s — binary. Vinyl has infinite states between it’s lowest and highest aka analog. Although humans can’t tell the difference, it’s somewhat significant.

The actual reason that vinyl sounds better than CD’s is because sound engineers regularly work their magic to get the loudest sound out of the CD as possible. They do this by sacrificing the range of the sound.

Vinyl is a little bit more tricky and sound engineers can’t do this.

What you end up with is vinyl sounds better even though CD’s *could* sound just as good.

A good example that I’m aware of is Underworld’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman album. You’ll notice that you really need to turn up the volume to get the same level as a modern pop CD.

Trevlac says:

Re: Re: Re: vinyl

While your argument might appear sound at first glance, a second-over will reveal that you have not provided evidence to substantiate the claims.
*Vinyl has infinite states of peaks and valleys
=Untestability: The theory which explains cannot be tested. Infinity is impossible to measure or test. In this instance they would be curves, not “infinities” and since they are peaks and valleys, not curves, your argument is invalid.

*It makes a significant difference (though humans themselves cannot tell this difference)
=Inconsistency: Assertion that contrary or contradictory statements are both true. Something cannot both make a significant difference and not make a difference to the observer. One or the other.

*Vinyl is a little bit more tricky and sound engineers can’t do this. What you end up with is vinyl sounds better even though CD’s *could* sound just as good.
=Begging the question: The truth of the conclusion is assumed in the premises, or in hidden assumptions. You have assumed that vinyl is different from CDs without evidence, and drawn a conclusion from that assumption.

*A good example that I’m aware of is Underworld’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman album. You’ll notice that you really need to turn up the volume to get the same level as a modern pop CD.
=Hasty generalization: The sample is too small to support an inductive generalization about a population. By showing one piece of anecdotal evidence (that also has a subjective basis), we are hastily generalizing that the conclusion drawn is the norm or majority. That is simply too small of a sample size to prove the point that all vinyl are better than all CDs.

gyffes (profile) says:

Nice, Jason...

Way to rationalize stealing: “I FEEEEEL the music on a cellular level, in ways ordinary humans couldn’t, so naturally it is Just and Right for me to take the music. Heck, I might even rename it to something more accurate and reissue it as my own composition, as music is not property of PEOPLE but of the UNIVERSE…”

what a crock of shit. You’re a thief. Deal with it.

gyffes (profile) says:


The fee structure for radio is well-established. I have to listen to commercials, the stations pay the fee for the right to play the music.

If you’re going to complain about something not being in the public domain simply because it wasn’t produced long enough ago, you might as well start beefing about the whole intellectual property system. Which may indeed need to be revisited but still doesn’t validate your theft.

Just Asking says:

Re: Radio?


You do not have to listen to the ads. I surf, is that stealing? I don’t think so. There was a guy who stated that going to the bathroom during commercials was a form of stealing TV, are you that guy?

Also, where did I complain about anything and why am I a thief? Is it because you assume I am, or is there anything factual which would substantiate such an accusation?

Please elucidate

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Radio?

The fee structure for radio is well-established.

So? By that rationalization copying music is OK too because it’s also “well-established”.

I have to listen to commercials

No, you don’t.

the stations pay the fee for the right to play the music.

Radio stations pay a fee, some of which may trickle back the song writer. The question was about the musicians. They get none of the fee.

You thief! You must be proud of yourself!

Captain. (profile) says:

Nice, gyffes...

gyffes, your accusations are mostly unfounded.

The problem with using the term “stealing” and “thieves” for people who infringe on coyprights is that these “thieves” are not necessarily, and often not at all, taking anything away from a company. If, for example, one downloads/uploads a video game that is no longer sold anywhere, that person is committing the crime you’re so against, yet no one has lost anything. Not profits, not property. How, exactly, is that stealing? How is that anything but infringing on a copyright?

If someone downloads a song, then buys the the album 2 weeks later, what would you call that? Stealing for 2 weeks? Temporary stealing? No one has lost anything, yet again. How about if someone streamed multiple seasons of a show online to catch up, and ended up recommending that show to other people, and resulted in bringing many more fans to the show every week. What sort of foolish person would compare that to stealing? Is it possible to steal when you’re only benefitting the victim?

The last sentence of your post finally begins to stumble upon one of the main issues: it’s a problem with the intellectual property system. It’s also a problem with the idealogies of bigger corporations and their reluctance to adapt to technology.

mic says:

Several times I longed to be able to encourage (with money) my favorite or young musicians to work on a new album. It would make me feel almost like the part of the creation process, not just a passive listener.
I also believe that it would be pretty encouraging feeling for musician to see how people believe in their abilities to create art.

Now, I know that I can basically do that by buying their previous work but it is just not the same feeling-wise for me and I believe also for musicians.

Josh. says:

What is stealing?

I’m not going to side with one view or the other. No point, I’ve bought CDs, I’ve certainly ripped friends’ CDs. Without innocence stand on or ideal to defend, I ask a simple question. It is a yes or no question, no other answer is appropriate.

Do current U.S. and international laws prohibit possession and use of music that you have not purchased?

The answer is “yes” and as such copying music without paying for it by whatever means are established is stealing.

This is not to say that there shouldn’t be some discussion as to a better way to compensate artist and labels for their investments. But the current situation is that if you are copying music that you haven’t paid for, you are stealing. Rationalize it all you want, discuss for pages that it lead you to buying every box set available, it is still stealing.

This is not an issue of great social injustice where by being a conscientious objector holds the promise of changing the world for the better, saving lives and righting wrongs. If you copy music you are stealing, if you don’t have the money to pay for it you don’t get to have it. I think there are better ways to manage it, but that isn’t the question…

Trevlac says:

Re: What is stealing?

I’ve always wondered what it feels like to be completely wrong. Perhaps you could enlighten me?

Copying is not stealing. It is copying. Stealing, (and we’re talking legal definition here, the same way you’re approaching this) is the act of removing the original from a possessor. Copying is the act of replicating an original or a replica and leaving it intact.

Legally speaking, stealing is the act of swiping a CD from a retail store. Copying is the act of ripping your friend’s new CD he bought. Or downloaded, or whatever.

If you wish to make an argument against copying, that is fine. But do not approach it from a legal standpoint and then erroneously claim (from a legal standpoint) that copying is stealing. It is not.

And while we’re on the subject: Since when does law enter into what benefits the economy or individuals or artists? I think it does not. Please provide substantial proof that law should be the determining factor in whether or not to copy work. It’s obvious that stealing is bad for the economy but please show that copying is also.

Trevlac says:

Re: Re: What is stealing?

Yes, I feel as though my well-verbalized argument will fall by the wayside. Allow me to present this as you would to a child:

A man walks into a home and pockets a kitchen knife and then walks out.
(He has stolen)

A man walks into a home and smiths a new knife with the same exact design as a kitchen knife inside of it.
(He has copied)

Ignoring the fact that he’s breaking and entering, he’s committed no atrocities in the second instance. Here all of you Jason-bots go: A real-life scenario to compare to. Since most of you seem incapable of thinking in such *intricacies* as computer data I gave an example with solid objects that is entirely possible.

Harold (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: What is stealing?

Whether or not this argument has been made before, it’s an eye-opening one in its truth. The problem here lies in the realm of the legal grey areas that surround this – patents or new technologies, for example (say, if you copied a Ronco slicer-dicer as opposed to a knife), etc. The inability to break these laws down into simple blacks and whites is the end-all frustration of the topic.

The article above reflects on a terrific concept which seems lost in the general direction of the comments that follow it:

“Our job is no longer to sell folks things they want to hear. They want an experience and to identify themselves as part of a community. Ownership then becomes a way of them supporting your community through investing in that community.”

This is the new economic model that is driving the creative process. It is beginning to simplify things into, as you say, copying as opposed to stealing, making the end product an all-encompassing experience as opposed to simple tracks on a disc (whatever the physical properties of said disc).

This only boils down to being a new economic model, one supported only by the online communities: not by laws, not by major labels (yet, oh it WILL happen and soon). It’s trailblazing at its finest. This means that regardless of what lawyers, labels, or even musicians say, it’s up to the online community to define the new way by continuing to share the music experience (as spoken to above), and use purchasing power to support the businesses that are doing the right thing.

I reference this article . It depicts an individual attempting to beg for people to return to a dying economic model. Please look into it if you haven’t read it already. It really expands upon the idea that an online economy is redefining the business landscape and some business leaders get it, and some do not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What is stealing?

The answer is “yes” and as such copying music without paying for it by whatever means are established is stealing.

Just because something is illegal does not make it “stealing”. For example, exceeding the speed limit may be illegal, but that does not make it “stealing”. Copyright infringement is illegal, but that does not make it “stealing” either. I really don’t see how any honest person could say otherwise.

Trevlac says:

Nox Arcana. I own all of their albums. I could have pirated them, actually I listened to the free samples on their site all the time. But no, their album art is beautiful, the lore is immersive, the CD art is almost collectible, and it makes me feel like I do belong…to what I don’t know…but when people come over I can’t wait to show them my colorful Nox Arcana albums.

They just really do things that make you want to purchase their merchandise. Instead of just creating music, they create a whole world and I think that’s a good way of taking music seriously without taking yourself seriously. I respect that immensely.

zcat (profile) says:

Vinyl vs. CD vs. "The loudness war"

“You’ll notice that you really need to turn up the volume to get the same level as a modern pop CD”

I’m wondering if there is actually a real difference here; CDs have potentially a 90dB dynamic range, but over the last few years there’s been a ‘loudness war’ where the labels apply increasing amounts of compression to make their recordings ‘louder’, so modern pop CDs probably only have about 20dB of actual range. Vinyl has from memory about a 50dB range, but if they’re not compressing the hell out of the music it would sound better than modern CDs.

Which is really, really sad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Vinyl offers a more a more accurate representation of the sound over CDs because with vinyl, the soundwave recorded on platter is identical to the one played by the musician at the time of recording – its supseptible to more inteference poping, noise but the entire original product is there. CDs take a sample of the original wave and quality is determined by the rate, how often that wave is sampled. In any case the original wave is not there in its entirety – this is why some prefer vinyl.

AudioTube59 says:

RE: Vinyl

someone else: After an album has been recorded and “mixed down”, it is transferred to an Analog Master Tape. This is what is used to press the vinyl, as well as what is used as the starting point for the digital transfer to CD. Usually during this transfer is when a lot of the compression and amplification that was being spoken of earlier happens.

Oh, and people who don’t think vinyl sounds better obviously has one of two things wrong with them:
1) Their only experience with vinyl comes from a $20 turntable hooked to $10 speakers
2) They have lost so much hearing from listening to compressed mp3s at 120dBA that they actually can not hear the difference.

Trevlac says:

Re: RE: Vinyl

Don’t assume. You’ll just look like an ass.

I have a very old turntable and set of speakers, Klipsche, 1970’s. They are both very high quality and beat most digital speakers today. The albums are a mixture of 1960-70-80-90-and even some new ones like Death Magnetic. It does not sound better.

The digital copies I have of my music are of the highest quality, lossless. I have to have high quality because I do video editing with them and audio editing. It’s harder to work in Adobe Audition with crappy MP3’s that have the volume increased by the record labels.

You people really need to stop talking out of your ass. Digital copies are several hundred times better than analog platters from decades ago.

Kris says:

Sales and consumers demand!

I believe that online sales will eventually take over the traditional in-store CD sales stores. But until 2012 the Walmart and Best Buy stores will still have a smaller selection of CD’s selling on the shelves. The only problem with online site such as itunes and napster is that the big corporate record companies push their major record label signed artists to the max not leaving any space for the indie artists to sell their music online on the same promotional level. And this is something that is going to have a huge backlash over the next few years. Indie artists are slowly changing the music industry but there are too much ignorance along side the major players in the game. Major recording artists are slowly falling out with a lot of the regular music material their they record. Saturation has already been occurring on a international level with in the music industry their leaving the avid consumer with more options towards purchasing various material out there. By 2015 the music industry will probably be selling more online and indie artists will be with in the mainstream of artists from saturation of the music out there.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...