Lament not the Death of Record Companies.

July 8, 2008 at 7:48 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Lament not the Death of Record Companies.

Record companies are dying a slow death; it’s true, you read about it all the time. Up until now I was unsure why, and so finally I decided to do a little research, and from what I’ve discovered I can honestly say that, as an indy musician, it’s a good thing. Here’s something that shed a little light on the subject for me:

Not since the 50s, when record companies wrenched power from the music publishers of Tin Pan Alley by replacing sheet music with vinyl, has the British music industry faced such an uncertain future.

The invention of the CD changed the industry beyond recognition, with record companies getting rich from incredible mark-ups on a commodity that actually costs less to manufacture than a vinyl record. But while busy counting their money, few labels could have predicted the sting in the tail… the Internet.

Not only has the Internet provided a universal window for new artists, it’s also provided a means for stealing music digitally. Although the CD has proved an incredible success as a format, it has also enabled digital copying of master quality. No more tape hiss or vinyl scratches, just pure aural perfection. This copying is killing record companies and their days are numbered if they don’t radically change.

It’s not implausible that in the future artists will sign directly to advertising agencies and film companies, by-passing record labels by using TV, cinema and product tie-ins to promote their music to an audience. Negating the need for radio stations that monopolise and control musical output, and possibly removing the need for an end format. Music from adverts and film could easily be downloaded from Audi or PlayStation websites.

A writer could sell his or her music direct to a brand from a bedroom anywhere in the world, without losing the 83 per cent royalty record companies currently deduct. Indeed, many acts are actively pursuing commercials as a means of promoting singles due to the lottery which is daytime Radio 1, the only medium for selling records in this country. Managers are desperately trying to find outlets for their bands’ music, other than the traditional record company routes, and advertisers always need music. The likely scenario is that the big record companies will merge with film and advertising agencies forming multimedia conglomerates, with the record company acting as the distribution company.

The challenge for the future is to move out of the traditional avenues and creatively market new talent via all the new media available. One thing won’t change, though – great music is, and always will be, being made in this country.

And here’s what Mark Mothersburg, the main man behind Devo, had to say about record companies in a recent interview with mixdown magazine:

MDM: Why do major labels always seem to be associated with musicians mistakes?

MM: It’s the way the whole machinery was set up. It was so much different back then. We’re interested in putting out another record just to celebrate the death of the record companies! Ha! Like, it’s safe to come out and do another record now! In fice or ten years from now, we’ll tell stories about how back in the 70’s and 80’s a band would get 8% of the money from the records they sold and the record company would keep 92% and on top of that they would make the artist pay out of his 8%, for the only expensive thing they made – which was a video. People in ten years will say ‘wow, that’s impossible!’. But that was a standard record contract back in the late 70’s. Now it’s the opposite, you sign with an internet entity and they take only 10% and help you market your record. It’s a different business formula for sure and anybody that’s lamenting the death of the record companies didn’t live through it, that all I can say. They didn’t know how terrible it was.

MDM: Does this explain why you haven’t released an album in so long?

I think it was just because we were sick and tired of record labels and the way they dealt with us. Our experiences were so terrible that we didn’t want to go there again and it really took the demise of the record companies to for us to be really interested in writing music again.

So there you have it, the demise of record companies is not something to be lamented, and I’m starting to see why.


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