Record Labels and Indie Music

Record Labels and Indie Music.

As discussed in my blog Indie Music and the Internet, in my recent blogs I am trying to understand and evaluate the live and recorded music business with regard to the more encompassing implications of the Internet. I hope to provide some insight on the future of music industry through this research, and share with the indies artists and bands some conclusions about the impact and related factors leading to this ‘absolute transformation’.

Lately, websites dedicated to music blogs and the digital curation of new music have been emerging and gaining popularity. This has become an effective platform for indie artists to promote and sell their work, because most of these are created and visited by music lovers. It is interesting to note that these platforms also serve as digital music magazines that have dedicated writers and generate a separate revenue stream. This change in the industry has forced record labels to find innovative ways of promotion to reverse their lost importance. Technology has made it more convenient for indie artists to produce and promote their work without help from record labels and today, indie artists are easily reaching out to fans, distributing their content and even the consumer is happy with the wider selection and easier access to music. However, it is important to note that indie artists, after gaining some success in their career online, are still electing to sign on with a major label. Reasons are many – record labels have the experience and contacts required for an indie artist to climb up the ladder. Major media organizations that bring with them access to mainstream forms of distribution, public relations experts that have general and specific knowledge of strategizing an artist’s career, contacts in radio stations, all of these are major reasons why record labels still retain some relevance and a lot of importance.

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As I have discussed in my blog Importance of Radio, although today’s generation is listening to music via YouTube and other direct streaming platforms and as an indie artist you would think that you are more likely to be discovered on one of these platforms, you might be mistaken. Discovery still tends to happen a lot through other channels. Nielsen reported that 48% of people discovered music mostly through the radio; YouTube scored a mere 7%, in 2012. In 2014, Nielsen reports that radio listenership went from 243.7 million weekly listeners in 2013 to 244.4 million in 2014. The key factor cited by them is the localization of stations and their curated content, making it very easy for the radio to get interwoven in peoples’ lives. Now that is something to keep in mind while planning your career.

That said, in light of the recent technological developments, record companies have been compelled to start adapting to the situation by utilizing the latest social media platforms to discover talent, potential stars and for promotions. They have had to form relationships with popular music blogs to promote their current signees. All of these alterations in their basic business model have been necessary for record labels to capitalize on new prospects.

In 2011, an industry expert described the evolution of the role of record labels as follows –

Record labels are unrecognizable compared to the 90s. They are smaller, more efficient and they have diversified and taken on many more functions.

The most notable difference is the difference in how record labels treat their artists’ career today. Labels have been noted to have started taking increasingly more interest in all aspects of the career of their artists. While in the 90s record labels only cared about selling records and keeping the major earnings to themselves, not paying much attention to personal growth of the artists, today labels play an active role in merchandising, touring and sponsorships. This transformation has brought the indie music industry to a point where today, instead of six majors, the US market is dominated only by three major record labels. All of this brought about the unprecedented growth in live and indie music revenues during the early 2000s.

In my next blog I am going to write more about some major changes that record labels had to make in their functioning in order to sustain with the transforming indie music industry. Please share your experiences and I will add them to my future blogs.

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