Thursday, 5 November 2009

Why Record Labels Are Important

With the ever expanding opportunities offered by the internet for an artist to write, record and self-release their own material, established record labels are competing with a whole new breed of ‘bedroom indies’. From new acts such to established artists such as Radiohead, artists are realising that there is a whole new world out there, away from the traditional corporate record label model.

So are record labels soon to be a thing of the past? Another concept in the music industry killed off by the on line and affordable technology revolution? Breaking More Waves hopes not. We believe there is still an important place for the record label, or rather a record label that holds good principles, not functioning purely through the basis of financial gain. Labels that are still interested in artistic development, the creative process and that care passionately about music, making money because of these principles rather than simply for short term gain are still vastly important.

We need record labels such as Bella Union and Kitchenware. Most importantly we need them because a good label actually gives an artist more creative freedom than if they are a self run bedroom indie. The problem with being a bedroom indie, as any committed artist of this type will tell you, is that sailing the ship alone takes up an inordinate amount of time resource, which restricts the artist from doing what they should be doing, and that is steering the ship, or rather being creative. Even in this day and age of Myspace pages and blog buzz, it is still unrealistic for an artist to expect to simply be able to write and record something, put it out there and find a huge audience. There has to be an element of business marketing to gain an audience. We recently read a quote from a new UK act whom this year has worked incredibly hard to have two top twenty singles and a top ten album, that only 5% of their time is actually spent on the creative process of writing, recording and performing the music. The other 95% is spent on the business side of things. This is why the music business is called just that. It is a business and like any business there is a lot of work to be done. Marketing a release requires a lot of commitment, and for go it alone artists that commitment means an even lesser amount of time being creative and more time doing business. If you agree with the argument that generally quality is related to time spent, then the more time an artist spends being creative the more likely he or she will produce more quality work. A good record label can take away much of the business from the artist and allow them to focus on being creative, but without interfering unnecessarily in the process or the outcome. A good label therefore allows artists creative freedom, and the time to be creative.

Secondly we need labels because, in the same way that a good blog actually cares about the music they write about and doesn’t just post up whatever free music a PR company has sent them, labels can filter out the rubbish. They have the resource to do this. As a listener, we don’t want our time wasted – we want to be able to find quality artists as quickly as possible. Labels that we trust and value allow us to do that. When for example Moshi Moshi announce a new single we now have an expectation that it is going to be something worth listening to and we will direct ourselves to check the release out. If labels didn’t exist all there would be would be hundreds of Myspace pages to look at, and believe us if you spend a day searching randomly through band Myspace pages, as we have done, you will soon come to realise how much detritus is out there.

It is for this reason that artists, punters and the industry needs record labels. The day they disappear is the day when we’ll all be spending a lot more time listening to inferior new music. We need trusted labels to guide us and to invest in artists.

And if we didn’t have labels ? There have been arguments put forward that consumer brands are the new model for artists to sell their music, making record labels redundant. Why sign with Sony when you can sign with Sony Playstation? We think this is not healthy for music. Consumer brands have no interest in anything other than making a quick buck through profit maximisation. An unsigned artist may be able to sell one of their songs for significant amounts of cash through a sponsorship deal to a brand, but once the deal is done the artist will be left with the cash but no long term strategy or support to help them develop as an artist. There’s always another act willing to sell their song.

With cash made the artist will soon return to being just another Myspace page, forgotten except for their one tune on a games console that in three years time will be redundant.

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