It’s about conversation. It’s about communicating a fear, a love, a secret, a fantasy, a philosophy—in essence, a story. What’s the one thing music is not about? A label. Or is it?
That being said, let’s start a dialogue—or more accurately, continue one.
With a steady supply of raw and delicious tunes, the music industry is now, more than ever, thriving in a place of uncertainty. Music has reached an incomparable level of diversity, vision and interpretation. Artists are connecting directly with their listeners while still managing to supply them with a steady diet of the music they crave. And they’re doing this without the help of a label. So while the industry finds itself in the midst of an evolution—or perhaps a revolution—major labels are winding up on life support. I wonder, is it time to pull that fateful plug?
“Major labels are not what they used to be…If you are a very hardcore DIY artist, a major label may not be necessary,” says Sterling Selover of the band Scraping For Change, who self released their EP, Breaking the Silence in January 2010.
Masses of DIY startups are claiming their place in the industry and providing all of the tools necessary for any musician to record, promote, distribute, analyze and share their music. Rather than getting worked over by major labels and dreadful contracts, artists are implementing business models that allow them to do away with the middle-man while still achieving stellar results. And while the vast array of resources can seem overwhelming, the industry will begin to see clear leaders over the next few years.
Just to name a few amidst the many:
- Band Metrics bandmetrics.com
- Topspin topspinmedia.com
- Bandize bandize.com
- CD Baby cdbaby.com
- Nimbit nimbit.com
- Kickstarter kickstarter.com
- Instinctiv instinctiv.com
- Jamendo jamendo.com
- Tune Core tunecore.com
- 100000Fans 100000fans.com
“People can produce music and get it out there without the help of major labels,” says Eusabius Burgard, bass player for The Krims who recently self released their album Lusk. But when asked about his feelings towards major labels, the conversation took an unexpected turn.
“You hear horror stories from a lot of major label bands, but bottom line, if the conditions were right, I’d give it a try.”
I found this last statement intriguing. Curious about how other artists felt, I asked soon-to-be breakout artist, KATYA, (who’s self released debut album Rock Lives comes out later this year) how she felt about major labels.
“I would love to be signed to a major label,” says Katya. “It would be great to put out an album every year and then go out on tour for the remainder of the year. The album [Rock Lives] took three years and eight months because I have no backing, management or label…If you put an album out yourself you are setting up every recording session, paying your musicians and making sure everybody signs your contracts for your project. You have to be very business like and then be able to be creative in the studio at the same time. It is a lot of Rock and Roll left and right brain switching!”
So it seems that although the major label may very well be in the doghouse, these musicians aren’t ready to give up on them just yet. Nevertheless, all three bands wouldn’t hesitate to self-release an album again.
“A record deal doesn’t mean you struck gold,” says Selover. “It should not be any artist’s ultimate goal. If you don’t believe you can do it on your own, and just expect a label to pick you up…odds are you won’t be.”