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  1. #1
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    Default No Major Label Required - Bands Go It Alone

    I pulled this from the front news page of MelodicRock.com today. I find this bit VERY interesting, as I've had experiences with major labels and watched a lot of friends jump through hoops with them as well. The days of "getting signed and making it" certainly appear to be drawing to a close, and the relationship between labels and media outlets is going to be strained as well. (Labels and radio stations have had a long-run of sleeping in the same bed.)

    I personally have no sympathy for the big labels. By squeezing so tight in graduating fashion over the last twenty years, they have left little room for creativity and pushing of the envelope on a larger scale. It's no wonder they fought the internet so hard early on, as their own demise was finally threatened by something. But the technology was going to exist one way or the other, and a computer connected to the internet is a very empowering thing for the individual; bands and artists are now able to self-promote and count on the oldest form of campaigning--grassroots campaigning--to get national and international attention.

    When I was pursuing a major label deal now many years ago, I became really deflated after seeing the giant pool of warm shit I was going to have to swim through to even be considered, and that would have been the first of many once signed. NOW, even though it means there will be a lot of bad music to sift through, any band can achieve a high level of success, and they don't need to conform to the three-minute pop song with the chorus hitting at the thirty-second mark.

    INDUSTRY NOTE: I thought this also might be of interest to many out there - stolen from the CBS News website in the USA:
    "(CBS) When the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah packaged and shipped its new CD, called Some Loud Thunder, they released it without a record label. And this was after their first self-financed album had sold more than 200,000 copies, prompting plenty of offers from the big labels, which they turned down.
    When asked why, Sean Greenhalgh, the band's drummer, told CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason, "The question that we asked record companies was essentially, 'What can you do for us that we can't do for ourselves?'"
    Billboard magazine made the band the poster boys of a "do-it-yourself revolution." Even million-selling artists like Jewel are considering going it alone. Garth Brooks did; so will The Eagles with their next album.
    One big reason: The Internet is now doing much of the promotion & distribution work, as fans themselves spread the word and the music. "Now you have blogs, other places where people go — that's how the publicity happens now," said Greenhalgh.
    So band members hired their own manufacturer, distributor and marketing company, and instead of the $1 an album they'd typically make from a record company, they'll get about $6 for every copy they sell.
    Jeff Tweedy is lead singer of the Grammy-winning band Wilco, whose new album, "Sky Blue Sky," comes next week on the Nonesuch label. But he wonders how long labels will be important. "Technology has evened the playing field. If the artist can gain more power over the situation — over the economics of the situation — why wouldn't they take it?"
    Like many artists, Tweedy admits asking himself the question: Do record labels deserves that big a cut? And his answer? "It's getting to be a really tough call" — because the record companies aren't moving albums the way they used to. CD sales plummeted 20 percent the first three months of this year.
    Empty shelves are all you'll find now at Tower Records, which until December was one of the most famous music store chains in the country. But it's now out of business, bankrupt — the abandoned display cases another unsettling sign of an industry in turmoil.
    As the industry tries to figure out where the business is going, bands like Clap Your Hands believe they're better off going it alone. "It was definitely a calculated risk," said Greenlagh, "but we felt like we had everything in place to do it ourselves."
    It's not necessarily their music that's revolutionary — it's their business model."
    WebLink: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/...n2858961.shtml.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewThomas.net View Post
    I pulled this from the front news page of MelodicRock.com today. I find this bit VERY interesting, as I've had experiences with major labels and watched a lot of friends jump through hoops with them as well. The days of "getting signed and making it" certainly appear to be drawing to a close, and the relationship between labels and media outlets is going to be strained as well. (Labels and radio stations have had a long-run of sleeping in the same bed.)

    I personally have no sympathy for the big labels. By squeezing so tight in graduating fashion over the last twenty years, they have left little room for creativity and pushing of the envelope on a larger scale. It's no wonder they fought the internet so hard early on, as their own demise was finally threatened by something. But the technology was going to exist one way or the other, and a computer connected to the internet is a very empowering thing for the individual; bands and artists are now able to self-promote and count on the oldest form of campaigning--grassroots campaigning--to get national and international attention.

    When I was pursuing a major label deal now many years ago, I became really deflated after seeing the giant pool of warm shit I was going to have to swim through to even be considered, and that would have been the first of many once signed. NOW, even though it means there will be a lot of bad music to sift through, any band can achieve a high level of success, and they don't need to conform to the three-minute pop song with the chorus hitting at the thirty-second mark.

    INDUSTRY NOTE: I thought this also might be of interest to many out there - stolen from the CBS News website in the USA:
    "(CBS) When the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah packaged and shipped its new CD, called Some Loud Thunder, they released it without a record label. And this was after their first self-financed album had sold more than 200,000 copies, prompting plenty of offers from the big labels, which they turned down.
    When asked why, Sean Greenhalgh, the band's drummer, told CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason, "The question that we asked record companies was essentially, 'What can you do for us that we can't do for ourselves?'"
    Billboard magazine made the band the poster boys of a "do-it-yourself revolution." Even million-selling artists like Jewel are considering going it alone. Garth Brooks did; so will The Eagles with their next album.
    One big reason: The Internet is now doing much of the promotion & distribution work, as fans themselves spread the word and the music. "Now you have blogs, other places where people go — that's how the publicity happens now," said Greenhalgh.
    So band members hired their own manufacturer, distributor and marketing company, and instead of the $1 an album they'd typically make from a record company, they'll get about $6 for every copy they sell.
    Jeff Tweedy is lead singer of the Grammy-winning band Wilco, whose new album, "Sky Blue Sky," comes next week on the Nonesuch label. But he wonders how long labels will be important. "Technology has evened the playing field. If the artist can gain more power over the situation — over the economics of the situation — why wouldn't they take it?"
    Like many artists, Tweedy admits asking himself the question: Do record labels deserves that big a cut? And his answer? "It's getting to be a really tough call" — because the record companies aren't moving albums the way they used to. CD sales plummeted 20 percent the first three months of this year.
    Empty shelves are all you'll find now at Tower Records, which until December was one of the most famous music store chains in the country. But it's now out of business, bankrupt — the abandoned display cases another unsettling sign of an industry in turmoil.
    As the industry tries to figure out where the business is going, bands like Clap Your Hands believe they're better off going it alone. "It was definitely a calculated risk," said Greenlagh, "but we felt like we had everything in place to do it ourselves."
    It's not necessarily their music that's revolutionary — it's their business model."
    WebLink: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/...n2858961.shtml.


    O.K. - as the resident lurker for a Major Label I have to speak up (as usual). Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has sold 46,774 in the U.S. which means that 200,000 figure is worldwide or it is units shipped. Garth Brooks was with us and he has done nothing but a Wal-Mart only boxed set which has not done as well as they had hoped (ha ha!) Major labels do a lot of jumping through hoops for artists and they like to spend a lot of money when they are with a major - which gets billed back to them. I guarantee that the self-distributed artists arent asking for full page ads in the local paper when they tour, $30,000 placement programs at Best Buy, people checking stock levels at your local Target and FYE when they come through town. So it's give and take. Do all artists get a fair shake? NO. Do all artists work as hard as each other - NO!!!! - Some think that when they get signed they are the next Van Halen - and boy do they act like it. PHYSICAL sales dropped 20 % but digital downloads have made up for 15% of that so we are down only 5%. Sorry you had a bad time getting a record deal Andrew but the Major labels aren't always the problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 3_6_9 time View Post
    O.K. - as the resident lurker for a Major Label I have to speak up (as usual). Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has sold 46,774 in the U.S. which means that 200,000 figure is worldwide or it is units shipped. Garth Brooks was with us and he has done nothing but a Wal-Mart only boxed set which has not done as well as they had hoped (ha ha!) Major labels do a lot of jumping through hoops for artists and they like to spend a lot of money when they are with a major - which gets billed back to them. I guarantee that the self-distributed artists arent asking for full page ads in the local paper when they tour, $30,000 placement programs at Best Buy, people checking stock levels at your local Target and FYE when they come through town. So it's give and take. Do all artists get a fair shake? NO. Do all artists work as hard as each other - NO!!!! - Some think that when they get signed they are the next Van Halen - and boy do they act like it. PHYSICAL sales dropped 20 % but digital downloads have made up for 15% of that so we are down only 5%. Sorry you had a bad time getting a record deal Andrew but the Major labels aren't always the problem.
    The shit bands they sign are.

  4. #4
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    Boo-hoo those poor, mistreated, labels.
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  5. #5
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    As usual you guys are right. All the bands on a major label are shit and we're all lazy crooks. And I wasn't crying I was correcting some misinformation. I would say the difference between 200,000 and 47,000 is significant and needs to be corrected. There are PLENTY of good bands that I work for and I do my job to help them all (even if I don't like them).

  6. #6
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    I'll also agree that most bands on major labels these days suck!! I rarely listen to the music on the radio because it all sounds so similar.

  7. #7
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    Plenty of Major label bands don't get play on the radio! Radio caters to the advertisers not the record labels. I agree radio sucks.

  8. #8
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    3_6_9 time is full of shit, I thought we all went on record believing that!?

  9. #9
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    Full of shit how Willy?

  10. #10
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    My rant had very little to do with my own experiences seeking a deal, and it certainly wasn't motivated by bitterness. (I'm quite content with the living I've made for myself as a musician.)

    I have a lot of experiences to reference as a producer, engineer, and session musician. I'll tell some stories later tonight when I'm home again.

    Just out of curiosity, what is your association with a major label, 369? Are you A&R?

    Quote Originally Posted by 3_6_9 time View Post
    O.K. - as the resident lurker for a Major Label I have to speak up (as usual). Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has sold 46,774 in the U.S. which means that 200,000 figure is worldwide or it is units shipped. Garth Brooks was with us and he has done nothing but a Wal-Mart only boxed set which has not done as well as they had hoped (ha ha!) Major labels do a lot of jumping through hoops for artists and they like to spend a lot of money when they are with a major - which gets billed back to them. I guarantee that the self-distributed artists arent asking for full page ads in the local paper when they tour, $30,000 placement programs at Best Buy, people checking stock levels at your local Target and FYE when they come through town. So it's give and take. Do all artists get a fair shake? NO. Do all artists work as hard as each other - NO!!!! - Some think that when they get signed they are the next Van Halen - and boy do they act like it. PHYSICAL sales dropped 20 % but digital downloads have made up for 15% of that so we are down only 5%. Sorry you had a bad time getting a record deal Andrew but the Major labels aren't always the problem.

  11. #11
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    I am sales and marketing - I earn my paycheck! =) Seriously, I wasn't saying you were bitter or anything - I know everyone has their own experiences and some label people can be pricks sometimes.

  12. #12
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    Okay...

    I went after the "major labels" in a very broad way earlier, and I think that got misinterpreted. I was speaking out of personal experience and from just observing the industry from both the perspective of a musician and consumer in the past fifteen years or so.

    When I was chasing records labels in LA about ten-plus years ago, I was a naive and misguided kid. I didn't understand practicality and the true definition of hard work. So those were my biggest shortcomings at the time. There were, however, a few people from the business who pulled me aside and said "this, this, and this will help you get on track." I heard them but still really lacked the focus to make it happen. So I kind of retreated into the background and started producing and recording more than anything else. Small-time stuff led to work on bigger projects, and just a few years ago I found myself working on major label albums and helping bands close to getting signed with their demos. (I've often equated it to baseball managers; most were never great players necessarily, but their knowledge of the game later put them in a position to help guide others.) I recall one band in particular in about 2002 who were signed with the management company of a couple recently famous acts. The managers, who admittedly knew nothing about music but rather just the business side, kept demanding that I arrange songs to meet what label reps had told them was the desired formula, and they considered one ballad-type song we were working on to be the "slam dunk" to getting signed. They demanded that the chorus happen close to and no later than the :30 mark. (As it was the song had an intro, verse, bridge, verse, THEN chorus--which happened at about the 1:30 mark.) I was quite impressed the arrangement the band had originally written and argued the song was actually perfect and that the payoff of waiting for the chorus would be recognized. In other words, the risk of NOT following the industry-dictated formula of the chorus at the :30 mark was a legitimate chance worth taking. (It was a really good song!) After three versions recorded and altogether too many fucking "conference calls" (the management company was based in Chicago), they fired me and sent the band out to Atlanta to record with a by-the-book producer. Management got the arrangement of the song as they wanted, and it fucking sucked. They turned a song that was unique but still has loads of potential to be a hit on rock and pop radio into something drab and predictable. And that great chorus that I said was worth the wait did indeed hit at the :30 mark, and by the end of the song I was so sick of hearing it I wanted to punch someone.

    The band did get signed eventually, by the way. Two weeks later, when the label suddenly hit financial problems, they were dropped.

    That's one of dozens of stories I've got of label pressure to conform to a certain formula. For almost a year I watched that same band jump through hoops as dictated by their management and/or A&R reps from the label. Few had any musical knowledge at all, yet they were somehow heavily involved in the writing and arrangement processes of the songs. I heard some pretty good songs go from interesting and great to trite and annoyingly predictable. The chorus at the :30 mark is one example. How many classic, timeless hits are there that don't follow that formula? TONS! Some of the biggest hits ever are the most unique in their arrangement! By sticking a formula to the process, the music output has become Domino's Pizza; from the east coast to the west coast it's going to look and taste exactly the same. So there's been a major uprising in independent labels and movement which is the result, I think, of many factors, two big ones being the boom of internet distribution along with a general appetite among the public for variety in their music options. With that said, I propose that by conforming SO much to formulas and by taking fewer risks a big part of the slide with regard to music sales is the major labels doing themselves in. It's an age old business norm: when quality goes down and prices go up, sales suffer.

    Now 369's argument that labels do get behind their acts is not something I'm disputing. I've seen friends who are signed (I'm thinking specifically of one group from Minneapolis who are signed to Epic right now) who have a lot of label support. You know what, though? They're a mall-punk (that's my own term) band who write three-minute pop songs that match exactly what we're hearing from most other bands in their genre right now (and the same guy who mixes all those albums mixed their album, too).

    I understand the label perspective that the music needs to be marketable, but investing in art--music, in this case--is about taking risks. And the major label industry will never get a piece of the "next big thing" until they start taking more risks. In the meantime, the growing independent market is making up the difference.

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    Well written Andrew! Our model is to (hopefully) have a balance of art & commerce. You have to have enough artists on your roster that are economically viable to be able to invest in the ones that are more artistsic and less formula. Sometimes you get lucky and the two converge (Radiohead, The Gorillaz, Fatboy Slim) but if you have a lot of artistic bands and you need a hitmaker I can see trying to squeeze that square peg into the round hole and make an artist something they are not. On the other side of the coin sometimes you need to play the game for a record or two before you get to call the shots. Record labels (and their employees) are not all cretins and know-nothings there are a lot of people who care and know a thing or two about the business. True we tend to get caught up in trends (like mall-punk) to make revenue but so do a lot of industries (the NFL for instance - ever notice when a team wins the Super Bowl that 12-15 other teams change THEIR philosophy to try and win?)

 

 

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