from the good-news dept
We’ve pointed out how incredibly ridiculous the old structure of the recording industry was, where artists would hand over pretty much all of their rights to the label. It’s amazing that this sort of indentured servitude model has survived as long as it has. After all, if you look at other parallels — such as venture capitalists and startups, the VCs don’t end up totally owning startups to the same extent as labels. Of course, this was really a function of the limitations inherent in the industry: the very limited ability to promote and distribute music in the past without a major record label behind you. With those barriers falling away, we’re seeing much more reasonable models pop up. I still believe there’s a big place for record labels, but it no longer needs to be a massive record label where you hand over all your rights.
And, in fact, we’re seeing newer, more nimble and smarter record labels who are willing to embrace these new models rather than spending all their money on lawyers and lobbyists to hold back customers. The latest example (sent in by Ruby) is that Radiohead’s manager, Brian Message, has teamed up with Nettwerk (who we’ve written about a bunch) to launch a new, much more artist-friendly record label called Polyphonic. One key point: artists on the label retain their copyright. To be honest, it’s amazing that any band has ever been willing to give up the copyrights on its music to a label, so it’s good to see alternatives showing up. The other plan is that the artists will get 50% of any profits, a significantly larger percentage than most other labels give.
Remember, also, that Brian Message is the guy who said file sharing is great for music and championed the band’s “pay what you want” experiment (which I still don’t think was nearly as creative as others’ business models). And Nettwerk’s Terry McBride has been an enthusiastic supporter of innovative business models that don’t focus on relying on copyright as a crutch (in fact, he’s discussed that copyright may be a totally pointless concept in the near future, and artists are better off to focus on other ways to build smart business models). It will be interesting to see who the new label signs up.