Article originally published with FNO Magazine (2008)
Original Blog Post 9/28/2010
THE MAJOR LABELS HAVE A CANCER AND THE PROGNOSIS IS NOT GOOD… by Steve Moore
The problem is systemic and there is no known cure – as of now. The day of the Indy label or independent artist is upon us and the timing has never been better for a do-it-yourself, grassroots start up to find its core market. In short, find a niche and you can reap the benefits. You CAN make a living as independent – but don’t expect to get truly “mad money” rich – unless you are pretty lucky. But the old adage that the harder you work, the luckier you get and luck truly is when preparation meets opportunity!
I remember when I was working as a music attorney in Nashville during the early to mid 90′s, the music business was experiencing the best times ever, old vinyl recordings were being released and CD’s were selling, the major acts were all over the radio and thus concerts were actually in large arenas, and most major acts didn’t have a hard time filling them. But that did not last long as the internet was changing EVERYTHING. I specifically remember watching everything changing and thinking “now is the time to start an independent label”. With everything that’s changing out there…it won’t be long before physical CD’s won’t be worth much and the music stores will start to die. And that’s exactly what has happened.
At first P2P and the over-pricing of CD’s started to show smaller sales overall, and this was only a small cut on the heel of the major labels. But the majors did nothing and that cut began to fester. In today’s world of the Internet, MP3, P2P, iPods and a host of other ways to get music out there, the major labels through their lack of understanding of “digital rights” (possibly the cure) is killing them. Their failure to take any preventative steps to allow the cut to scab over and heal has left a festering wound that has grown worse in time. The problem has gotten so bad that this once minor cut has now become an open bleeding sore with no real quick fix that could possibly help. In fact, it’s going to take major surgery, possibly life threatening, to cure what ails them.
The Major Labels are not going away as BIG BUSINESS will find some way of saving itself, and there is a still a place for them in the larger scheme of things as there are no shortage of acts that are really good enough to actually break through on the major scene. The piece of the pie for these artists will shrink even more as the labels ask for more rights and hence more of the artists’ money! In record deals offered today the Majors want your management, booking fees, your merchandising, in short EVERYTHING they can get their grubby fingers on leaving the artists to have to break EXTREMELY huge or end up never recouping a dime and thus never able to get out of their contract to try to make it on their own.
With the proliferation of home studios, and a wide variety of ways to get your music out there, you just have to find your core market and niche and exploit it the best way you can. And there’s so many ways to do it now – your chances have never been better.
You may not be able to quit your day job but if you work at it – you never know what could happen. There are bands out there that have used their website and my space pages to sells hundreds of thousands of CD’s on their own. Even if you sell the CD’s for cheap or even give them away if you bundle them with a t-shirt you’re probably going to make more money that if you give a major label 90% of your profits! So the plan should be to record EVERYTHING you can – whether it’s live or in the studio and get your music out there. Once you honed your act into a viable, solid act – hit the road and tour, tour, tour! You will be surprised what you can do all on your own – and once you’ve made a great reputation for yourself and you still want those major label dollars behind you to break it really big – at least now you have some negotiation strength to get the best deal possible.
If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend you read my book The Truth about the Music Business. Go to http://www.truthaboutmusicbiz.com and click “Buy The Book”. I also have a solid business plan that I’ve worked on for the past 5 years that I’m willing to share. Just contact me at email@example.com.
Thanks for reading! RIF
Steve Moore, B.A., J.D.,
Author of “The Truth about the Music Business”
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Thanks July for allowing me to WRITE for your publication!