Remember the days before the digital music revolution? Life was a lot easier back then for most aspiring musicians. The goal was very simple: create a great demo and send it out in the hopes that some record label would sign you.
Most well known artists got signed one way or another via a direct or indirect demo submission. The demo method worked for artists ranging from historic acts like The Beatles to some extremely cheesy hair metal bands.
Today most of the self-appointed digital music era gurus are advising musicians to skip the damn record labels and go the “DIY” way. Just put your songs in MySpace and you will have thousands of fans clamoring for your music. Just release the music directly to itunes and you are on your way to independent music stardom. Gurus often cite the success of independent artists like Jonathan Coulton to inspire aspiring artists into doing their own thing.
Musicians never had so many avenues to promote their music like the ones they have today. You can promote yourself via videos, blogs, twitter, etc. Unfortunately with the widening of the avenues of music promotion comes one big drawback: Traffic and Noise.
The internet is oversaturated with artists offering free tracks, free remixes, free albums. There is so much music out there, it is impossible to sort it all out.
For every Jonathan Coulton success story you have tens of thousands of artists who have failed to get noticed among a sea of wanna-be artists.
As Richard Menta explains in this interesting article, the release-the-music-yourself model works mostly for established artists with large fan bases such as NIN and Radiohead, but for unknown artists the DIY remains a dubious way of getting fans.
This is where indie record labels come in. We are here to discover and nurture talent, and to do stuff most artists don’t really want to do.
Since i started this label, i have new found respect for label owners & artists like Mike Paradinas who is busy running his own label (planet Mu) and also finds (somehow) the time to create music.
This is a labor of love. Most artists would rather be writing music than reading about tax forms, dealing with website problems, sending promos all over the world, tweeting and blogging about music, etc.
Promoting artists is a full time job, especially in this day and age.
Indie record labels are here to stay.
As Richard Menta concludes in his DIY Record Industry: Models for Millionaires, Models for the Obscure article:
The bottom line is that the record label is not going away. The huge record label probably will disappear, to be replaced by many small and mid-sized labels that will run leaner (can it get meaner? I hope not), but take a piece of all of an artists revenues including touring and concessions. They also will take care of management for those who just want to play music and not run the necessary daily business activities. They might even argue that DIY is DYI for Do Yourself In.
This is so true, that even Jonathan Coulton himself is using an indie record label to promote some of his records, instead of doing everything himself. Read what he has to say in this interview with recordinghacks.com
I’m trying an experiment with my new concert DVD/CD “BEST. CONCERT. EVER.” and distributing it through a company called What Are Records. They’ve been great so far, and while my cut is going to be a little smaller than it would be if I were doing it myself, I don’t have to keep boxes and boxes of those things around. And the theory is that they’ll be able to get me into more places than I would get to myself, like maybe old fashioned brick and mortar retail (I know! That’s still around apparently!). We’ll see how it goes — I’m not opposed to the idea of labels on general principles or anything. It just makes sense that after a certain point, handling everything on your own becomes burdensome enough that it’s worth a certain amount of money to have someone else do it. And that line gets drawn differently for everyone. It’s always just a question of any given deal bringing you enough value to offset what it costs you in money.