On the demise of major labels...

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Nipsy, Jan 23, 2003.

  1. Nipsy macrumors 65816


    Jan 19, 2002
  2. Juventuz macrumors 6502a


    Dec 4, 2002

    The music labels have had plenty of chances on making amends with the public, yet the simply don't care.

    It wouldn't bother me one bit if we've got one less boy band or one less Brittany.
  3. gbojim macrumors 6502

    Jan 30, 2002
    That was an interesting article. A few thoughts from someone who has been involved in the music business for 30 years (I started when I was 12).

    There will be a big opportunity to further develop distribution channels - especially those that will allow purchase of single tracks. The Internet is great for that - but so few people have access to high speed it would be impractical over the next couple of years. Retail operations where you can drop in and burn a CD or DL the file to your laptop or MP3 player - I doubt it.

    Whatever happens to distribution, I hope this copy protection crap disappears. There are albums I would like to purchase, but I use my DVD player for music and the current copy protection schemes won't let me do that. So I protest by not buying the music.

    A good thing - IMHO - we won't be exposed to manufactured "art" any longer - or at least not as much of it. However, some of the money made from groups like the Back Street Boys went to good use.

    For example, there is a lot of good new talent that does not have the money to start out on their own. That of course is why so many new acts strive to get signed by a big label. The problem is that for every one of those groups that makes it, there are about 10 that don't. For those of you not in the business, you would not believe the number of acts that get signed and never make it to the first album because the members start to fight and the act breaks up. So that seed money would have to come from somewhere else if not from the labels.

    I would expect live touring to change dramatically. Acts tour to promote album sales. Its a huge upfront investment. Most tours themselves lose money since they are extremely expensive so there is a reliance on album sales for profit. However, if we can buy one track for say $2 instead of the whole album for $18, a whole lot more sales would have to be made to cover tour costs. Also, there would have to be a much larger percentage of tours sponsored by third parties (like Pepsi sponsored Britney). I wonder if there is that much sponsorship money around.

    Another interesting question is who will pay for album production. The electronics and software to record and master high quality music is fairly cheap these days. Or you can rent a fully equipped studio for about $150 per hour plus engineer. The problem is most acts could not produce their own material if their life depended on it. I have never understood these acts that fly around the world spending 3 days in a different studio for every track at $50k a pop. On the other hand, its pretty easy to burn a couple hundred thousand to get an album out. Someone will have to step up with that money.

    Promotion will become another interesting issue. Outside of touring, we have TV specials, videos, radio ads, magazine ads, contests to fly somewhere and meet the band and all the other things people do to get your attention. Most of this promotion though is initiated by the promoter. You do not have to go seek it out. So, if there is less promotion money, there is a bigger chance a good artist will not make it because no one knows who they are. A new model will be required for that as well.

    If I sound like I'm defending the labels - I'm not. Although I don't think they simply don't care about the public as Juventuz believes, I do think they have somewhat lost touch with reality and now they are starting to panic - just like anyone else who finds themselves loosing control of something that have been in control of for so long.

    One final thought - if you could buy whatever music you wanted when you wanted it for a price you thought was good, I wonder how many people would actually buy it as opposed to downloading it free from a PTP server.
  4. alset macrumors 65816


    Nov 9, 2002
    East Bay, CA

    These are exactly the same concerns I have. A great deal of my CD collection is dedicated to groups who have extraordinary production techniques. I don't expect we would see the same caliber of studio work if major labels did not have the clout they do today.

    Many of these groups choose to record their music to analog tape for artistic reasons. Therefore, the argument that many make, "With a Pro Tools rig you can do it for a fraction of the cost," is not realistic. I am absolutely terrified by what this will mean to real recording artists, not just bands who want to record.

    As for promotional cash, I have one example that I consider validates the point made before me. 311 sued to be released from their label and joined Volcano Records, under the case that Capricorn had failed to promote their latest albums. Volcano promoted the next 311 album with print, radio, net, and television advertising. That disc brought the group back onto the charts by raising public awareness of the release.

    Record companies need to change, not die.

  5. howard macrumors 68020


    Nov 18, 2002
    first i have a question...who exactly are the big 5?

    that was a great article and some good comments about them too. I know that a label can have a value, there just has to be some sort of equilibrium. One comment i would like to add to everything...about downloading music is...say you hear of a band from a friend and want to listen to them, the easiest way is to download it, and then you can choose to buy it or not. the point is that if there was no way to download and listen to it there would be know way that person will buy it, without hearing it...so theoretically a person that buys albumns on a regular basis will buy even more if then can hear samples of bands that arn't as mainstream by downloading or whatever. If they could find a way to do that without having tons of piracy then i think it would help boost albumn sales. one good way i think is streaming...you can hear the song but the quality sucks so you have to buy the albumn. ...just my 2 cents
  6. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    Universal, Warner, Sony, BMG, EMI

    i say good riddance.

    wrt bands self-producing, high production values, and ProTools project studios -- the talent is there. i engineer bands out of my home (using ProTools LE and some nice mics) and get decent sounds.

    it doesn't take that much of an investment to get good sounds, and there are lots of talented engineers and producers. i'm not worried.

    yeah, if you want that Steely Dan or Jane Siberry uber-high production value, you're gonna have to get in a really nice studio w/ some super talent. but that's what -- one tenth of 1 percent of all music released?
  7. asparagui macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2002
    los angeles (usc)
    Big 5 = Universal, Warner, Sony, BMG, and EMI.

    I host up low-res (320*240) versions of my movies on my site. The theory is that someday people will give me money to get a prettier version on DVD.

    As far as for 'artistic' purposes for using one medium over another: if you can warrant the money, then use whatever you want. But if you can't, don't complain about other people who find ways to use cheaper equipment to make their art.

    To use a quote from back home: "it's a poor carpenter who blames his tools."

  8. howard macrumors 68020


    Nov 18, 2002
    i do agree with the last to posts, it doesn't have to be incredibly expensive to engineer your music...but the part that is very expensive is advertising...advertising and production. it costs fortunes to get your name out and also to make the cds and distribute them. Not many artists have that kinda of money and would only be selling a few cds here and there at local areas if it weren't for the record companies. bye the way i'm not trying to back them 100% just giving you the other side of the arguement...cause i know there arn't to many who will
  9. Nipsy thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jan 19, 2002
    It is my hope that the RIAA disappears (as I've been vocalizing loudly), as I feel that major musicians, consumers, venues, and small musicains will benefit.

    Here are my primary observations:

    Production values are unlikely to change with known artists. A band that is known for its finalized sound is well aware that paying for production is key to ongoing sales. I don't think you'll see skimping.

    Distribution has changed greatly in the last 20 years. Satellite pressing shops around the country can supply retail ready CDs the same way BMG Music club does. The RIAA needs not be involved in distribution in this day and age.

    Talent will return to musical trends. Without the RIAA forcing manufactured music down the throats of teens, they'll be forced to explore what they really like. Local bands will develop grass roots followings which can swell into stardom (if they're good enough). I liked Green Day 10 years ago when they were a startup on Lookout records. They toured in a bookmobile. They played anywhere (including my college backyard) they could get their sound out. They WORKED IT, and now they're huge. Same thing with Rancid (used to be Operation Ivy).

    These are bands which never would have made it big without hard work, and a modicum of talent.

    This, in my opinion is a good thing!. I would rather have 500 Billy Braggs, Wilcos, Rancids, Swingin Utters, Hot Water Musics, Tom Waitses, succeed a little, than one N'Sync succeed a lot.

    A & R is over-rated. Press junkets, commercials for videos, etc. are counterproductive to the success of good music. When talent becomes important again, I hope that all the money wasted on A & R goes to artists who deserve it, and that many more of these an share the wealth.

    Selling a million $5 CDs is easier than selling 300,000 $20 CDs, and just as profitable. I would be thrilled to own every CD by the Stones & the Beatles & Miles Davis & Frank Sinatra, but I won't be buying them new at $20 a pop.

    The internet has made world of mouth global. Artists want to use it (save for a few loud dissenters). Consumers want to use it. Industry execs don't.

    I could go on for hours on why everyone (save for record execs) benefits from a disappearing RIAA, so I'm going to gag myself now.
  10. janey macrumors 603


    Dec 20, 2002
    sunny los angeles
    I think you just summarized my thoughts on this perfectly Nipsy.
  11. howard macrumors 68020


    Nov 18, 2002
    please don't gag yourself...i'm enjoying this thread....

    this arguement has so many complex and intertwined good sides and bad sides...its hard to see the "best" situation. which is i think, lots of talented musicians making decent amount of money selling records that many people can afford and want to buy. with the internet as an advertising tool i think new artists might be able to thrive very well...imagine sites dedicated to giving you streams of new and upcoming artists in different categories...with links to thousands of similar artists...the artist can put there stuff on there for a small monthly fee so that the sites could keep going, (though they probably wouldn't have to much trouble) and then people could hear whoever they want and decide to go out and buy the cd. do away with the big record companies, do away with kazaa and people stealing music. plus without needing funding for the big record companies and for ads the cds could drop by a huge percent. tell me...is this not a good idea?? if not then lets find one that is good.
  12. Chomolungma macrumors regular

    Jul 25, 2002
    Santa Fe, NM
    Your agrument seems to suggest that, you need to be famous so that people know that you are a good musician or band. Shouldn't it be the other way around.

    I think word of mouth spread by the very fast internet can be just effective even more so perhaps. It starts in the local bars, clubs and small music events. I know it works, because I listen to many electronic musics produced by not so famous musicians from around the world. Recording music has been around for a few decades, but playing music live to an audience has been around since man learned how to make sounds with tools.

    I just don't think the agrument made by the Big 5 i.e. they need to spend millions to get people's attention is strong or can even be seriously considered.
  13. Nipsy thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jan 19, 2002
    Well, I'm kinda sick of harping on what's wrong, so I'll type for a few minutes about what's right.

    My MP3 collection runs about 30,000 songs. My CD collection is about 700. There is an obvious disparity here. Who have I cheated?

    Primarily, I have cheated the hugely successful. Primarily, I have done this because I don't want 20 Elton John songs, I want Candle in the Wind.

    However, sometimes there is an upside to this from which (if I bought new CDs) the artists would benefit. Before file sharing I had a limited scope in music. I liked punk, ska, reggae (pre pot smoker reggae), and British invasion rock.

    After spending time with Napster and AG, I have greatly broadened my horizons. I now listen to (and purchase [albiet used]) big band, jazz, light techno, folk, etc. as well as all the genres mentioned above. This is solely because I was allowed to run rampant in the P2P world.

    I spend money going to see artists I never would have dreamed of going to see. I spend money on their cds (which I would buy new if prices weren't artificial).

    I would never have spent this money blindly!

    The second major group from whom I 'steal' songs, are small independent and undiscovered bands (most of what I like).

    This is a much touchier subject, because stealing from these guys keeps food off the table (READ: beer from the 'fridge). With small bands, I make a concerted effort to track them down, and buy the music, knowing it is supporting people who love music, not corporations who love profits. Sometimes I can't do this, and I feel bad, so I also try to see and support these bands when they come through town.

    I've talked at length with many smaller artists, and they are unified in one thing: they want to be heard, even more than they want to be paid (although they still want to be paid). This is the difference between Heaven and Hell. They aren't making music to buy a new jet...they are making music to send a message.

    The result of all this is that I have heard songs written by 4 15 year olds in Finland which made me swell up with tears. I have met people from the farthest corners of the earth, who are touring the 'States in a $700 mini van they found for sale near the airport. I have my future wedding planned around a track by an East Coast folk singer no-one's ever heard of. I heard some of the best music that I would have missed entierly were it not for P2P.

    Granted, I'm not Joe Consumer. I'm the most musical person I know who cant hold a tune or play a note. I spend about $5k a year on music, and not a penny of it goes to the majors, or their artists.

    But, if I can be so emotionally affected, forced to listen and think daily, by what I find, it is my hope that the masses might learn a little in a world free of the RIAA, and enjoy themselves doing it.

    So, at the end ot they day, if the divine Ms. Rosen can't afford a diamond encrusted toilet paper cozy or Lars Ulrich can only afford two hairstylists because of me, I shan't feel one iota of guilt. If I can hear Japanese ska, see Yugoslavian punk, and throw a few dollars at TALENTED people who could use 'em, I will.

    Without the RIAA, this is what everyone would have to do, and I don't think we'd be any poorer for it.
  14. Chomolungma macrumors regular

    Jul 25, 2002
    Santa Fe, NM
    ignore my first sentence, as I made an ass of myself:D
    Be that as it may, I think my message unique and clear.
  15. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Caution: I'm just thinking out loud here.

    A growing number of people will no longer pay anything like the current prices for prepackaged music, e.g., an audio CD at the record store. People in the music business could try to convince them to change their minds, try to force them to pay for downloaded music, or prevent them from copying it, but those sound to me like losing battles in the long run.

    So what alternatives are there, other than lowering the retail prices to the bone? Two off-the-cuff ideas:

    (1) They could make prepacked goods more valuable by selling you more than the music. Examples: include photos, posters, bubblegum cards, stickers, or other stuff related to the artist, along with the music. It might work for the younger crowd, at least.

    (2) Let you download and share your material, but make it time sensitive so you'll want to pay for a regular subscription. Newspapers don't worry that you will copy their front page and share it with your friends because it'll be out of date so soon anyway. Maybe artists should sell daily access to their recording sessions, or keep adding new verses to their songs each week, or something else that will make you want to pay them reguarly for daily online access to their material.
  16. gbojim macrumors 6502

    Jan 30, 2002
    One thing I meant to include in my earlier post and I forgot - I agree that the labels got too fat at the expense of the artists. Until an artist is hugely successful, they do not get paid much. In addition, the labels try to influence the artists creativity to make them more commercially successful. I have stongly felt for many many years that those 2 points are just wrong.

    However, a couple of other points...

    Many people say they download music because it is too expensive to buy. Most CDs are about $18, and back in the vinyl, then cassette days, an album cost about $14. So CDs are a bit more money. For those of you old enough to remember vinyl and cassettes , you know that the sound quality of CD is far higher (yeah, I know analog reproduces more accurately, but 99.9% of the people on the planet can't tell) and the media is much more durable. Also, many people talk as if the only cost that goes into the CD is the actual cost of making the thing at under $1, but that is far from the truth. Although I would be happier if CDs were cheaper, I personally don't have a big problem with the price.

    Also, a lot of people say they feel the labels are making too much money so they try to send a message by not buying the product. People have done that for years so it is not a new concept. However, having the ability to steal something you don't want to pay for in a way that you cannot easily be caught adds a whole new variable to the equation.

    I know a fairly senior guy at Sony Music pretty well. We ran into each other at a party over Christmas and we got talking about the whole download thing. I am personally of the opinion that the major decrease in music sales over the last couple of years is not primarily due to file sharing, but more due to consumers wanting to send a message. But, the folks at Sony (and probably the rest of the labels too) can't prove the reason for the sales descrease. They really believe that file sharing is the major problem. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Sharing digital files of their songs over the Internet becomes popular and your sales drop by an unprecedented 15% over 2 years. What would you think is the problem? Because of this, I also believe we would be much closer to a good solution if there wasn't so much illegal file sharing going on.
  17. 3rdpath macrumors 68000


    Jan 7, 2002
    2nd star on the right and straight till morning
    anyone who thinks the big 5 are just gonna close-up shop are sadly mistaken. they'll always find a way to generate revenue thru tie-ins, movie placement, merchandising..you name it. they can squeeze blood from a turnip...bank on it. there might be only 3 majors left after its all said and done..gotta have that movie money to stay afloat...but float they will.

    i'm no big fan of the major labels, i've been under contract to them as an artist, a staff writer and producer. they're amoral, unethical condescending schmucks for sure. but like cockroaches, they can survive any type of nuclear attack...but maybe their behavior will change. nahhh, probably not.

    opportunities for the indies will appear...which is mostly a good thing. but lets please stop furthering the myth that every indie label is some altruistic gift to the music loving masses...many of them are unfairly structured just like the large labels...some of the well-known indies are even worse.

    regarding p2p....i for one am quite excited that there may finally be legal recourse thru isp tracing to catch people illegally downloading music. i'm all for the miracle of sharing material thru the internet.. but only when the artist/writer willingly puts said material up for swapping. otherwise, its just theft. period. and believe me, there will be prosecutions in the near future.

    with the flux of the majors, plethora of nonviable indies, theft thru p2p and the unquenchable thirst for disposable music by the masses its a crappy time to be a career musician....

    and i'm an optimist.
  18. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    The only thing that hasn't been said yet is where the hell do you guys shop sell CDs for $18 or more for "regular" CDs (no imports, special editions or anything like that)? $15 or so is the most I've ever paid for a regular CD.

    gbojim asked if people would buy CDs if they were cheaper as opposed to downloading only. IMO some people would, but most people wouldn't. Most of the downloaders love getting music for free and as a justification they start spewing crap 'bout fighting the money hungry labels when all they care about is saving their own money, and infintile rush they get for "beating the system."

    3rdpath I agree w/yer last post and would just like to add something in the same vien.

    People love to bash the labels for screwing the musicians outta money and taking creative control of bands to flood the airwaves with crap. Well, guess what, those bands didn't have to sign a record deal if they didn't want to. Those bands didn't have to give up creative control but they decided to. It takes two to tango so don't feel sorry for the band that willing signed away most of its earnings in a multi-record deal and, aslo willingly, gave creative control to a bunch of accountants and market analysts<sp?>.

  19. maka macrumors regular


    Nov 4, 2002
    Madrid (Spain)
    The problem with the big labels is that they try to sell us crap. Most of the CDs released by them have one song people like (the single that people hear in the music video) and the rest is just to fill the space left on the CD. That's why it's bad for them if you can hear the songs before buying the CD and also if you can buy only one track. ¿Who will buy 10 tracks from a CD that only has a couple good songs? Nobody...

    I believe that if people hear something and they really like it, they'll try to buy it if it's available. This is good for real artists and musicians that love to make music, but it's bad for people that are only interested in selling music. As someone said before. I've also gone to concerts and bought CDs from bands I would never have heard of if it wasn't for the 'net.

    I'm a musician myself and I think the best way for your music to be heard is to give it away freely and let people copy it freely. There's a very interesting page at


    about this. There's a license similar to the GNU license for software that allows for free copying and modification of music.

    Musicians get 10% on sales of CDs with big record companies, I think the more people know about a band, the more they'll go see them in concert, and at least, for bands that are not superstars, concerts and merchandising are the real source of money.

    Again, as some else said, look at bands like Phish...

    There was a terror story somewhere on the 'net about this band signed by a major that after all the recording/producer/trips/hotels expenses ended up owning money to the major in royalties after selling 500000 copies... when I find the link I'll post it. And I'm sure they're not the only ones... ah! and also, what about all the bands that sign with an AR person and then this AR person cannot get them in the major, but then the band cannot sign with another label because of the deal with the AR... this is also a nightmare for a lot of bands starting out...

    I will shut up now... :) this is a topic I could talk about for hours (and sorry about the spelling... i'm spanish :)
  20. WinterMute Moderator emeritus


    Jan 19, 2003
    London, England
    Maka Steve Albini's article about the finance of a record deal says it all for me (I'll post URL in a bit).

    Genie's out the bottle Gents, there is no way to protect intellectual property in a world connected by bigger and bigger b/width pipes, MP3 will wither once the networks are running at decent bitrates, why put up with data compression artifacts when you can D/L a .aiff file in the same time?

    The Majors as they exist are dead on their feet, they just don't know it yet. It's really a case of evolve or die.

    The original premise of the recording industry was that the best artists became famous, simply by being the most popular, mass media marketing killed that, and we descended to Britteny and her ilk, people will always buy what they are told to, never under-estimate the stupidity of the general populace...;)

    I think we will get back to the original model to a degree, with the ability to create, market and deliver product from a laptop, the savvy consumer will buy what he likes again.

    On the subject of quality recording, a decent 2" analogue machine will cost around £5k, well below the top end ProTools rig, granted the media costs are steep, but the argument for sound quality is beginning to fade (note: beginning, I've recorded on analog for 20 years and will fight tooth and nail to preserve the OPTION).

    In the end, the quality of the recording isn't so much about format, it's about signal chain and understanding acoustics or electronic manipulation of waveform, give me a Neumann U47, a Neve purepath pre-amp and a GREAT MUSICIAN, and I'll give you a world class recording from my Mac or from the Studer 2".

    I think we are entering a great era for personal creativity, forget the majors, we don't need them.
  21. iAlan macrumors 65816


    Dec 11, 2002
    Location: Location:
    Labels Shoot Selves In Foot

    I like to have a physical CD, nice cover design, lyrics, etc sitting on my CD shelf allong with my other CD's. But if i cannot listen to them on my DVD player or my Mac and iPod, i ain't going to buy it.

    I have downloaded the occasional track in the past, no complete CD mind you, and have in fact gone one step further and bought the album because I liked the track.

    This just ain't happening now. I wanted to get the new Robbie William album but it is copy protected. Same with Whitney Houston. So I downloaded a couple of tracks from both albums and left it at that.

    My friend bought both, he has a PC, so he exported MP3's and emailed both albume to me.

    As far as i am concerned, i don't care. I love the music but could not buy it and play it on my own equipment.

    Record companies are shooting themselves in the foot with this, They make CD's non-Mac-playable, yet the 95% of the computer world with PC's can. I can download, but PC users can download more. Mac users may not make a dent in record sales by not buying, but rest asurred, PC's will not be able to play CD's in the not too distant future either. then who will make MP3's for hte rest of us....who will buy CD's at all.

    Oh, you can get various USB devises you can plug into you mac and a stereo and suck the sound nto sound editing apps. Hey Apple, allow line-in in iTunes and the problem is solved
  22. cubist macrumors 68020

    Jul 4, 2002
    Muncie, Indiana
    Or they could just do the obvious thing, which is to lower their prices.
  23. maka macrumors regular


    Nov 4, 2002
    Madrid (Spain)
    here's a couple of links on what I said before...

    The Open Audio License (based on the GNU license)

    The Free Music Webring

    And last, I just saw this article which is bad news...
    An ISP was forced to reveal the identity of a Kazaa user...

    The link I posted before on the Free Music Philosophy seems to be down right now... and also the page where I saw the article about the finances of a band in a major label... a pity...
  24. WinterMute Moderator emeritus


    Jan 19, 2003
    London, England
  25. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    from what i've heard, the average artist doesn't get anything near that.

    if you exclude the britneys and such, i think it's closer to zero percent. check out albini's article (link in a previous post) for a great description of how it all "works."

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