Here’s my opinion on this subject. Actually, read this first and then I’ll share my opinion in the next segment.
Musically Speaking: Record labels: Do we need them?
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JJ Rocks Article # 229: Record labels: Do we need them?
The end of record companies as we know it could be right around the corner. With losses up to 20% a year and many of the world’s greatest music executives and contributors retiring, and the newcomers to the industry struggling to find the next Beatles, the future of the formulated and sculptured hit making stars barley has a light at the end of the tunnel. It all becomes obvious when you think about the reduction of new hit makers in the last few years, and the strong attraction to modern day talent shows. This may prove that musical independence and raw ability is starting to shine it’s light on an industry previously ran on premeditated sales. I once read “record companies don’t make records anymore, they make celebrities”. But in my opinion they don’t make celebrities, they are only trying to preserve them. It’s easier to keep the trophies you already have shined up than it is to go out and try to win more.
It doesn’t take rocket science to realize that this is the new age of the independent musical artist. Those words still get a few condescending tones and expressions from up and coming record company executives. But I do get a feeling that the true giants in the industry are starting to agree on one thing. If a band is great and they do a tremendous job at promoting themselves, then in a way, they are their own record company. Now this may not put them in a position where they can buy an entire mountain top just to build one home, or have their name become a household word. But there are many comfortable levels of musical income that will still keep you out of a day job and allow you to walk through a mall without being molested by fans. But of course if that is your thing, then more power to you.
Now I must also mention that many independent artists are still looking for record deals. Most of them seem to get connected with labels that I have never heard of. If they are going to that then they should just start their own company because the unheard of “record labels” are basically doing the same thing while trying to convince you that they can make you famous. And the companies that are ready to lay out some real advance money and market you all the way to the top are starting to be in the same category as tooth fairies and winning the lottery. But hey, if your mom still sneaks in you room at night when you’re toothlessly sleeping, and the edge of a quarter scratching a one dollar ticket keeps your dreams alive, then I wish you the best.
If being on a major label is what you are after, by all means go for it. But just keep in mind that the days of the roaming talent scouts and high budgets for new acts are almost a thing of the past. But things may change. A record company could pick you up, put you in a great studio, market your music to millions, and keep you on a short leash. And afterwards you can start doing crazy things and making decisions on your own because you feel that you are above all the record company control. But you will not care because as long as you live there will always be some kind of a bar gig where people remember your “one hit wonder”.
So whether your goal is to be rich and famous for a while with a well known but struggling label, or you just want to live comfortably and still have millions of dedicated listeners that you captured one at a time, just remember that doing everything yourself and not depending on others to make your decisions for you is priceless, even if it comes at a price.
– JJ Rocks, St. Croix, Virgin Islands