In this I am going to describe the business of music, record labels and all. I feel that I am qualified to speak on the subject as I myself have run a record company into the ground and I have been on 4 different record labels.
Let me state this loud and clear right up front. RECORD LABELS ARE GOD. Let me explain why. Market penetration, their mailing lists and marketing machine. On my own I could never get my cds or music even featured in any positive way on itunes. Labels also give you street cred. Now saying that I know it does not work out for everyone. That is because in business most things do in fact fail. Success is rare compared to the big fail in all things. Music is gambling, you never know for sure if people are going to buy. You try and do everything you can to get them to, but still so many factors are fighting against us now and I will get into that later.
I have tried to sell my cds myself when I first started, and even recently when i had a lot of left over merchandise from touring. Filling out orders and getting them right is hard when you are not really set up for it. My label is set up for this. Plus they have massive distribution contacts and can get my stuff in places I cannot.
Lets say I decide to release myself. If I am touring, and making music, time to market and advertise and do all the things alabel does is almost full time work.
The money pie. It works like this. Say you sell a CD for 13.99 retail in walmart or mom and pop store. The artist only often sees 1 dollar or less than this. I have a very good deal, and I will not talk about that. so lets say the artist gets 2 or 3 dollars of that. the distributor gets 3 or 4 dollars, the retail shop gets 3 or 4 dollars and the label gets the rest. The label often gets like 3 or 4 bucks. This is how the money ball rolls. So people think the labels get all this money, well they don’t, and they have over head, they have to rent space for merch, employees who sit around all day and organize releases, manufacturing, distribution, marketing etc. Because of the piracy in this industry I have seen labels go from a staff of 12 down to 3. Its so bad now.
Labels in the end if they have a lot of good selling artist do have a pool of cash to do things like lend money to the artists from their royalties in advances and for promotional projects. What this allows for is a chance for newcomers, if they get on a label with other big acts they can get some support and street cred.
People think labels are magic fairy dust, that the money they have grows on trees, and you instantly win the pot of gold when you get on a label. So we’re told, heaven’s paved with gold, But it has to come from some where. This delusional thinking is what leads to the heartbreak of a lot of delusional musicians. The the flip side of the coin, if you fail then its all the labels fault LOL. Seriously. This is a business. Labels and selling music is a business. The faster you understand this, the easier it will be on your aspirations.
The reality is that Labels are kind of a glorified bank. They can only really help you by advancing you on your part of the pie. The 3 to 4 dollars they make on every cd must go back into investing and pay the bills of their operation.
The reality is this. It is on the artist to appeal, to make good music, sell the image, and the music. If you cannot make hits for the radio, or the clubs, good luck. In the alternative scene the single biggest promotional tool besides your label are DJS. If the DJS don’t spin your stuff in the clubs in the big cities on the big event nights, you chances of selling are really low. This is one thing I can complain about the labels these days, they do not support the DJS like they used to, now they get promo codes to download mp3s. They need physical copies, and if you make special dj editions with swag you get djs playing your stuff more and wearing your gear. So important in our scene.
If There is one thing I would want the labels to do better, its just service DJS better. This would be my only complaint. Still my advice to you as an artist is to swag the fucking DJS even if you are not on a label. This is a big fucking deal. DJS are the other GODS in the music industry.
The 3rd and Final GOD in the chain is your FANS. Its like this, Djs spin the tunes, you make songs people like, so they dance to them, word of mouth kicks in, they find out who it is, then set off to go buy it or download it. No matter what you need good distribution to get people to buy it in all the places where they can. If you do not make music that appeals to people, the DJS, The Labels, the Distribution and advertising will not help you one single bit. In the end, it is on the artist to appeal and drive sales. Everyone else just helps you. All things must be in sync to have success.
If your music is good and appeals to the masses. The labels and DJS can really make you famous and get you a bigger piece of the pie. The thing is, music production is expensive to do it right. Costs on swag and merch are very high, touring is very expensive, and we now live in a culture that has been brainwashed into hating record labels and often I see this as an excuse of why they pirate stuff. The people at my record label work very hard. I work very hard, the DJS work very hard. If the music industry dies because of piracy, it will kill off the DJS, the Labels, and the musicians. All musicians become small time youtube one hit wonders. the money to do this will dry up, the professionalism will be taken out, and the quality of music will suffer. The appeal will die. And music will become hobby. If a musician cannot sit around all day and night writing music and sharpening their writing and playing skillz, if they all have to work 2 jobs to afford the gear and or studio time and have 0 time to practice and play and write all the time to turn them into hit writing machines, hobby lobby. Weekend warrior musicians always fail usually. Music production must be full time to make hits and quality product. Take out the money, musicians do not have the time to put into the projects to be professional and the product suffer. I can hear a lot of this in music today already, and its why i prefer music from the past, the quality of musicianship was better in the old days because of the money and the artist sat around full time writing and getting very good at it. 10,000 hours might not make you a genius, but it will sure sharpen your skills.
I don’t know if i want hobby music. I love professional music. Its what I grew up on.
Why am I on a label and turning to crowd funding? Because labels do not have the money they used to, i still use them to market but I get paid way less now because of piracy. Still I cannot afford to do all my own distribution, and sales and go on tour, and make an lp every 1.5 years. I want to make a lot of merch for my fans, and I don’t have the capital, and my label does not have the capital to pay for the initial costs of this anymore. To make the swag it costs thousands of dollars up front. You cannot even get the ball rolling unless you have thousands up front. My label handles the cd manufacturing and promotion. I the artist must pay for all the merch up front.. I see it like the fans invest in VAC to produce cool stuff that will make them buy things. No one wants just a lousy cd anymore, they want a mug, a patch, a poster, sticker etc. They want autographed merch too. This is what I will give you with crowd funding.
Now with piracy, the only way to make product and merch is crowd funding. So crowd funding right now is the answer to piracy. Even with labels.
PS: Huge record labels like sony, um this is bs. I am talking about indy music labels.