Record Labels Used to be Cool – Who Woulda Guessed it?

Yesterday I had an interview with Mark Cope, the Music Industry Examiner for Mark has had a lot of experience in the music industry, having worked for several labels and even EMI over the years.

Mark though, has a real passion for independent artists and music, and he continues to support it as much as he possibly can. Mark and I had a chance to talk about Beat-Play and how it can solve a lot of the problems artists are facing right now. He’s planning on doing an article about us in the next couple weeks, so watch out for that. He also told me about how he has seen the music business evolve and change over the years. I thought that this perspective was worth sharing.

One of the things Mark told me was that back in the 70’s, record labels weren’t all that bad. He said they would actually be considerate of the artist’s wishes, and the atmosphere was more that of a team, working towards a common goal. He said it was very rare that an artist ever actually left a label. Usually artists were very loyal and they would stay with one label for their whole career. They must have had good reason too.

Back then that was the business. There were literally no other options, in terms of promoting or distributing, and everyone realized more that they all needed eachother.

Now a days, the picture has completely changed. What happened?? Record Labels are more picky than ever trying to decide what constitutes good music, or at least “hit” music. They’re constantly setting more terms and conditions on artists, like forcing them to use Twitter everyday, and insisting on longer contracts for more albums so they can lock down artists for longer while they still can.

I think the turning point had to have been when the internet came into the picture, and downloading of music from applications like Napster and Limewire became popular. The labels really took a hit when that happened, but instead of rallying together with their artists and sorting it out as a team, they took the slimy approach, and started only caring about their own paychecks.

They sought to condemn their own customers and their own artist’s fans with no regard for how it would impact their artists. Artists lost trust completely with the labels, and since then, the labels have continued to strengthen their position and find as many ways as possible to exploit artists for their revenues and rights, even sometimes going after an artist’s tour money. They’ve truly gone too far.

Knowing the past helps to gain a better understanding of what happens now. It was because of the internet that the artists have lost trust in the labels, because once it was here, the labels started to show their true agendas. However, the label’s attempts to further sever any trusting relationships between themselves and their artists have initiated a lot of internet start-ups that are working to bring more control and fairness back to the table. Music Without Labels is a great example of one. It appears that it will be the internet that is also responsible for fixing this situation, in addition to breaking it.

It seems as though the internet will finally spell the end for the major labels. With the web, promotion and distribution on a mass scale can be simple and cheap. Also an artist can do it all by themselves without even having to make any deals, or ever leaving their homes.

Artists must not be as stupid as the labels, and decide that fighting the internet is the right action to take. They need to instead utilize the internet, and study the trends that are creating these undesired effects, and learn how to harness them in order to take advantage, and rebuild the structure of the business so that it is able to actually benefit from these trends, instead of fall apart because of them.

There is such a model right now being beta tested, that is actually capable of making piracy a driving force for artists to create revenue. It’s called Beat-Play. There’s more info in the about us section of this blog.

The music environment has indeed evolved in a major way. With the internet, many things are suddenly becoming much easier than they ever were before. Whole racks of effects boxes have been transformed into files you can buy or download, and can called up at any time as a VST Plug-in. Movie and music editing that would have taken months, or years before, and would have required whole teams, using huge magnetic tape reels, now takes hours or days, with one person using software that can run on your laptop.

The world itself, thanks to computers and the web, is becoming more independent all the time. It is the natural evolution of our culture, and it’s a trend that man has been following since the first technology was invented. It is the essence of technology itself, to further free man’s time from complicated things. It will be very exciting to see what the future holds for music, and everything else. I can assure you, it only gets easier.

Written by: Dante Cullari Founder & President Beat-Play, LLC

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2 responses to “Record Labels Used to be Cool – Who Woulda Guessed it?

  1. While you are right about the threat the Internet poses to the industry (and opportunity for the other parties), I strongly suspect that the underlying problems have accumulated for a considerable time before the Internet was on their radar. In an ideal capitalism two parties come together, make a mutually beneficial exchange, and both leave happy; in the capitalism that is practiced in many modern corporations, OTOH, it is more a matter of tricking the other party into make a one-sided deal. This is exactly what (in the second- and third-hand accounts I have encountered) happened in the music and movie industries even before the Internet—but which is by no means limited to music and movies. (I link to an interesting account in in my last post.)

    As for the reasons, I have no definite answer, but suspect that an increasing distance between ownership and decision making, more “moral hazard”, and similar, is to blame for a significant part of it.

    • Wow that is a great insight. Thanks for sharing that. It makes perfect sense. I guess the label’s agendas were not always so hidden. Being born in the late 80’s I’m too young to have really experienced that time first hand, so it’s great to get that kind of knowledge from someone who has seen it. Thanks a lot!

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