Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Industry Entry: Remember the 90's?

In the most relevant debate; Whether a band should sign to a major label or simply "go it alone:" I can't help but think just how different things were even 15 years ago. What comes to mind first are the hit making factories of the 50's and 60's when solid songwriters would sit in office cubicles and churn out hit after hit for the best singers in the nation. At that time there was a process, and science to becoming successful in the music industry. I believe now more than ever that there is clearly no formula that works EVERY time. Of course this isn't news to pretty much any reader as many would say, "Well, we are in a digital age..." Which of course means that just about anyone can create a record and have it in a million headphones overnight.

Sure, the Internet is changing the music industry, and for most of the labels that got on board this wasn't a problem. And sure, many things have changed over the past few years. But lets be honest, the music industry is made up of mostly savvy businessmen who have simply changed their business model. Their investment strategy has changed and adjusted to the generation.

Specifically speaking for my own generation, the investment strategy in the early 90's to 2000's was focused on singles. The labels were interested in marketing as little as one of the artists songs. They weren't looking for a current large following, great live performance, striking good looks or MySpace friends. Do you remember browsing the "single section" at Target or Best Buy and picking up the latest radio hit? Have you seen any of those endcaps lately? That was big business for labels at the time.

But, lets face it, over time this investment became viewed has risky and perhaps (in my own words) "Frivolous."
As the industry audiences shifted towards a "want it now" attitude, record labels realized that the investment of developing an artist (especially for the purpose of perhaps only one hit single) was not only no longer financially viable but time consuming. Could you imagine if this was still the model? New music from your favorite artist every 2 years and only hearing from them on tour? If you didn't catch them in your city, you didn't catch them. An artist nowadays would loose their fan base quickly by still using this model and labels would essentially lose money on their "investment."

So, should a budding musician go with a record label or "go it alone?" Honestly, labels are still looking for talent, but looking to invest in a new way. The most important thing I believe an artist can do is wear their "business hat" as often as possible. Understand that businesses cannot thrive without consumers, and that business models must shift to meet the demands of the consumers fueling that business. This point of view might help you decide whether a label is seeing you for your artistic potential or as their newest product. Neither are bad, but they both aren't for everyone.