Major record labels – falling on deaf ears?
There is no denying that the mainstream music labels (EMI, Sony BMG, Warner, and Island/Def jam) are in a critical yet sorry state at the moment. After the redundancy of 1800 EMI employees in December, problems have surfaced concerning the future of music industry employees and even the artists themselves. Cautious not to follow the well trodden road which asks ‘is illegal downloading to blame?’ the question should really be what happens next? And although signing to a major label can have its endless promotional advantages, can doing it on your own be just as effective?
As the start of 2008 kicks in, many record label employees will be feeling the low morale and stress as major companies cut costs, artists and put jobs on the line. CD sales in the US for 2007 plummeted by nineteen percent and there is no sign of a U-turn any time soon. EMI, recently purchased by UK investor Terra Firma, plans to spend £110m ($154m) on restructuring the company. The move is said to generate savings of £98m but will add to their ever growing debt of £1.65bn.
EMI are not the only company guilty here. Island/Def Jam have laid of some of its most important players including A+R VP Rob Stevenson, (who signed Fall out boy and the Killers.) as well as many other top executives in their radio promotions department. Sony BMG have also sacked between seventy and eighty employees within the last two months.
This all may seem like pointless trivia to some and it is obvious being signed to a major label can increase your bands success and reputation to no end. Any major label band will tell you that getting signed is just the beginning, but with resources and money for promotional uses being budgeted into other departments, how much can you achieve on your own before needing help from the men in suits and how can you do it?
Lets start with the obvious and probably most significant fuck you to major labels as of late. Radiohead. After being signed to EMI until 2005
, they decided to release their seventh album ‘In rainbows’ online for any price you please. Having refused to release any financial figures about the experiment, the group were making headlines, proving to everyone who
Opposed the idea that money means nothing. The album claimed number 1 both in the UK and the USA and sold around 7.1 million copies.
DIY culture is something that is highly admired and greatly respected within the music industry. With the right attitude and motivation anything is possible. Take for example, local Edinburgh band The mars patrol. (www.themarspatrol.com). The band have self funded everything they have so far achieved and have self released singles and EP’s to a record label standard. The bands close communication with their fans via online communities and producing a mini TV series (made available throughout Itunes) has gained then the respect they deserve. In this respect This is proof that a band can make their future their own and still retain all creative freedom.
Over in the USA, Californian bands such as Army of freshmen are another living example of self funded success. With major support slots opening for Bowling for soup, multiple tours in the UK and US, funded by even selling their own cars, sacrifice is often the key to success. Having gained a record deal from a Blue hand record, they thought they had cracked it. Blue hand lost all their distrobution as the release of their self titled record loomed. AOF decided to shape their fate and took the records on tours they organized and funded. The bands sold over
10 000 off their own back and lead to such opportunities as a spot on Japans sonic festival which has resulted in this band building is firm base far east.
So if this piece doesn’t at least give you some information on the state of the music business today, it might at least give you a little hope in knowing that making your band you life can be done on your own. It just takes a little hard work.