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.

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Comments on “Moby Says The Major Record Labels 'Should Die'”

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53 Comments
fogbugzd (profile) says:

Re: 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

cc (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 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).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 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.

cc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 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

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 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.

Noel Coward says:

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” ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Noel Coward says:

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.

PaulT (profile) says:

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.

Jesse Townley (profile) says:

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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