Lying in bed and thinking about the future of record labels.
- In a future where physical media all but ceases to exist, what purpose will they serve?
- Labels could continue to offer marketing services and funding for touring, recording, and merchandise.
- Artist-owned labels (e.g. Wilco’s dBpm) will serve as curatorial entities, theoretically anointing independent artists and presenting them to a primed market (the owner’s fan base).
- The above approach perpetuates the “brand power” concept that has long been the bread and butter of smaller labels (e.g. early Subpop, Drag City, etc). The opportunity for profit is not immediately clear, however, but would not necessarily have to be the primary interest for a major artist in using a label as a curatorial outlet.
- Upstart labels will become collective. As opposed to an enterprise providing monetary resources to artists, a group of artists will pool resources to the benefit of all members. Cost and profit sharing for merchandise, recording, touring, record manufacturing, marketing, and sales.
- Again, the opportunity for significant (even operational) profit is not immediately clear. The collective model does alleviate some of the individual financial burden of independently producing and releasing music.
- When even major artists (e.g. Radiohead) are self-releasing material, is a label even necessary?
- For independent/local/low-level artists, labels can still serve important functions, but the model will have to be more oriented toward support and less oriented towards profit, which is difficult to see through. If labels are to provide support to artists but cease to make a profit, where is the money going to come from?
- Labels as non-profits: grant-driven, providing financial support to local and regional artists, on par with grants and funding for “traditional” artists.
Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts. I’m just jotting them down, for better or worse.