Major Record Labels Sorta, Maybe Embracing Direct-To-Fan Projects
from the but-it's-more-than-just-the-platform dept
While we definitely knock the major record labels for their legal strategy and occasional business blunders, in the last two years or so, there has actually been some recognition within the record labels that finally they need to focus on giving fans what they want, rather than just suing them and hoping that the old CD business model magically returns to its former highs. There have been hints and glimmers of hope from the major record labels — though, even those inside the labels who seem to get it will quietly admit that it’s sometimes a struggle to get some of this through to “the old guard.”
The question, though, is how much of this is real, and how much of it is the old guard putting on a show, picking up on a buzzword and insisting that this time, they’ve got it. A few years ago, all the talk was about “360 Deals” and how that would get the labels off of the CD revenue IV drip. But, many artists (smartly) balked, seeing such deals not as an industry adapting to change, but one looking to just get a larger piece of the pie — and doing so without adding much value, and after decades of screwing over the artists. So that hasn’t worked out so well for the most part.
It appears that the latest buzzword that the majors are picking up on is this concept of the “direct-to-fan” model. This is a bit of an offshoot of my own mantra of getting creators to connect with fans. And, for more independent artists, a number of platforms and companies have sprung up to help them more easily connect with fans, whether it’s MySpace or BandCamp or TopSpin or TuneCore, or whoever else. And, of course, most of those companies also have relationships or deals with the major record labels, but it seems that the majors are realizing that they need to have a real “direct-to-fan” strategy themselves.
Just recently, we saw Warner Music sign a deal with Cisco to use Cisco’s EOS platform for direct-to-fan efforts. And, more recently, Universal Music announced that it was working with Echospin to provide direct-to-fan offerings. I have no doubt that EMI and (probably way way way at the end of the line), Sony will get around to making similar announcements.
While I think it’s a great thing that the labels are experimenting with smarter models that actually do focus on bringing the musicians closer to the fans and providing a much more compelling offering that goes beyond brochureware, I’m a bit skeptical that they’ll really pull it off successfully in the short term. Direct-to-fan offerings is more than a platform. It’s an actual business model and marketing strategy and it’s unclear if the labels have actually figured that part out yet. Yes, they’re adopting platforms and they’re taking steps in the right direction — so let’s give them some credit. But until they really understand what fans want and how to better help musicians provide it, setting up a “direct-to-fan” platform won’t make a big difference.