Thursday, March 01, 2007

who needs record labels?

As a possible reply (or response or counterpoint or tangential-example or interesting-but-irrelevant-aside) to ‘Ramblin man’ at SoundSlope, ignore the U.K.-centric language, and have a read of ‘Record labels lose out as bands become brands in fierce market’ from the Guardian Unlimited. In particular:

Although sales of CDs are falling sharply… artists are riding the crest of a creative wave—live music has never been more popular, festivals are selling out in record time and brands are paying millions to associate themselves with up and coming acts.
The rest, however, with its predictions of markets driven by cottage industry ‘brands’, reads a little bit like a poor imitation-William Gibson novel (when did business sections of newspapers start getting their tone from Wired, eh?)…

6 comments:

Dan said...

Why do we need record labels? It's a good question, and I've talked about the transition from traditional record labels to digital labels extensively on my blog, but personally, the role I see them playing in the future is as a filter for the massive amount of music available. Record labels need to become more like good friends whose taste you trust, so that when they release a new recording you know by their track record that there's a good chance you'll dig it.

the improvising guitarist said...

Hey Dan, thanks for the comment.

I've talked about the transition from traditional record labels to digital labels extensively on my blog…

I’ve noticed. I was particularly intrigued by the Zappa model… A friend of mine, AF, proposed a similar mode of music distribution (except AF’s system was based on taxation—a little too socialist for Zappa probably…).

Record labels need to become more like good friends whose taste you trust, so… you know by their track record that there's a good chance you'll dig it.

I know what you mean—a record label as online portal—but I have a network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances (some in cyberspace, most in meatspace) which does that filtering without that central organization.
Maybe another model for the online media sphere is to be found in ad-hoc net-based communities like, well, the blogosphere. A decentralized network of agents and actors that, when you are embedded in it, filters out much of the content for you anyway; gravitating towards common interests, spiraling away from others. It seems to me that there’s a potential for a bottom-up approach to this without having to resort to a top-down, label centered hierarchy.
But, I admit, that could just be hopeful thinking….

S, tig

Dan said...

I definitely agree with you, and I question whether it's really necessary to have a centralized mode of distribution like a label. I know if I was going to release a recording tomorrow, even if I was living in a fantasy world where someone wanted to release it on a label, I'd be inclined to go the digital online route. Especially with improvised music which has a huge potential audience overseas, distribution wouldn't be an issue if you go digital. I guess with blogs and the like you run into a language barrier. Interesting stuff to think about...

the improvising guitarist said...

I guess with blogs and the like you run into a language barrier.

Hmm… good point. I hadn’t thought of that. (Doh!)

S, tig

Chris Rich said...

Language problems can be covered by translator software but I've seen some funny outcomes. Some way of context framing music units matters and per download payment models appear to br a direction.

If someone wants a physical object there is also a production demand capability that Cuscuna reportedly uses for Mosaic.

Historcally, the big troublemakers have always been distributers although tower fucked over Aum Fidelity and others when it began to seize up.

Keep in mind that the critical EU world is less avid to jump on US methods and an interesting play there might be personal export exchange where Eric Zinman trades 10 units of a trio title for an eaqual number from Mario Rechtern in Austria and each perty moves these to local record shops where they are rare.

This also bypasses tariffs because no money is exchanged, just 10 round flat things for ten round flat things, which is how customs officials view cds.

the improvising guitarist said...

This also bypasses tariffs because no money is exchanged, just 10 round flat things for ten round flat things, which is how customs officials view cds.

Now that’s interesting: a gift (musicians’) economy that runs parallel with global free-market capitalism. I wonder if it’s time to revive, not only the idea of craft guilds (the equivalent of the AACM or the LMC), but the idea of inter-regional links between these bodies. The implication for various musicians’ cooperatives would be interesting….

Thanks for the comment.

S, tig