Yet Another Music Business Model: Label Signs With A Band
from the fantastic dept
When I've pointed that out, however, some have responded that this just means I want the same status quo as before. But, again, that's incorrect. The way things used to be, was that the major record labels had all of the power. You basically had to sign a major record label deal to get anywhere, and since there are just a few majors, you were pretty limited -- and all of them took advantage of artists. They could do that because they had all the power, and they had a business model that only worked by putting ridiculous and oppressive terms on most artists, guaranteeing that few ever saw anything beyond their advances.
The big difference today? Thanks to new technologies and new avenues for both connecting with fans and transacting with them, the major labels don't have the same sort of power any more -- and artists can actually take back many of their rights, whether it's retaining the copyright on their songs, or negotiating deals that don't seem quite so much like indentured servitude.
And, in fact, we've been seeing more and more of that lately, with newer labels taking a much more innovative, musician-friendly, fan-friendly approach to things. Ian Rogers has a fascinating post that shows at least one situation, where the power structure has certainly shifted, as he read about how a label, Duck Down, had signed to Blue Scholars, a band. Note the direction. It wasn't that Blue Scholars had signed a label deal with Duck Down. Instead, Blue Scholars figured out a unique way to finance, promote and distribute its latest album. First, they did a deal with Seattle's Caffe Vita Coffee to finance the album, and to handle local distribution. The band is retaining all the rights to the music with control over how it's marketed and sold (and, they note, "given away"). Duck Down, though has been "hired" to help with the marketing.
This makes a lot of sense. Certainly record labels have a lot of experience and connections when it comes to marketing music and musicians. So leveraging those relationships makes a lot of sense. Giving up all control and rights just for that marketing expertise, on the other hand... makes less and less sense. So, no, I don't think record labels are going away. I still think there's plenty of room for them in the wider music ecosystem. But their role is changing, and the power shift is moving much more to artists and away from the labels. Some of the smart ones get it. But a few of the major labels certainly don't like this, which is why they fight so hard against the technology that's making this happen.