Music Marketing Author and Course Instructor

Blog Post
Seriously, do you really want to be signed to a major?

Posted on 1/17/2008

In addition to Music Marketing 201, I'm also teaching Dave Kusek’s Future of Music course. The first lesson in the course looks at the difference between the music business and the record business (there's a big difference, of course), what a major/independent label offer musicians, the importance of touring and merch, and an overview of publishing.

Part of the first assignment in the course has students evaluate a hypothetical situation involving a songwriter that is beginning to have some success, and is now being courted by a major. The question: should this artist take the major label deal?

It's a pretty broad question in theory, and one that requires a lot of questions in return. What are the terms of the deal? Is this a 360 deal that will require this artist to relinquish control (financially and creatively) of merchandise, touring income, publishing? Does this artist feel that a major label can effectively do things that the artist cannot do for him/herself?

From a critical thinking standpoint, all the above (and more) should be considered (by a lawyer, if possible). But from a knee-jerk standpoint, my first thought is to walk away. Consider these two news releases from last week. The first is from London’s Guardian paper:

“EMI, bought by Guy Hands’ Terra Firma group last year, confirmed today that worldwide headcount will be cut by between 1,500 and 2,000 as it slashes costs.

Confirming EMI insiders’ fears, the company said ahead of staff briefings this morning that it was launching ‘a series of wide-ranging initiatives within its recorded music division to enable the group to become the world’s most innovative, artist friendly and consumer-focused music company.”

On the flip side, there continue to be interesting ideas popping up on how artists can run their own label. Take a look at this company, called Slice The Pie. The company enables artists to connect with financers who want to invest in music. It looks to me like the company is in its infant stages, but it is definitely an interesting idea.

I've worked at labels. And while I think that a small tightly run forward-thinking label can survive and prosper in this environment (Stone's Throw is one of my favorite examples at the moment), I still think the majors are a ways off from being even remotely close to navigating the current environment. I think times are going to continue to get worse for the majors before they get better, and the resources available to independent musicians are going to continue to improve.

Blog Index

Interview with Don Passman
    posted 11/18/2009

Clay Shirky on Social Media
    posted 8/6/2009

Covering an Entire Album in a Day
    posted 6/18/2009

Goodbye Jay Bennett
    posted 5/26/2009

This Old Argument Again
    posted 5/22/2009

How to Get Your Music in TV and Film
    posted 3/24/2009

Mother of All Funk Chords
    posted 3/12/2009

Changes at Touch and Go
    posted 2/19/2009

Estelle Bennett – Ronettes
    posted 2/16/2009

Radiohead at the Grammy Awards
    posted 2/9/2009

Apple and the Replacement Cycle
    posted 1/25/2009

Lessig on Colbert
    posted 1/10/2009

Using uStream to Host a Webcast
    posted 11/19/2008

Top 20 Online Promotions for October
    posted 11/8/2008

Talk About Leveraging New Technology!
    posted 10/14/2008

How To Sell Music On Your Website
    posted 9/8/2008

The Word of Mouth Manual Volume II
    posted 7/21/2008

SXSW Interviews
    posted 4/19/2008

Record Store Day
    posted 4/17/2008

    posted 3/16/2008

Why I am a fan of TuneCore
    posted 3/4/2008

How to get your music on iTunes
    posted 2/4/2008

The Trouble with the Future of Radio
    posted 12/3/2007

More losses at Big Box retail
    posted 11/25/2007

The (growing) Cost of Doing Business
    posted 10/30/2007

iTunes drops price of DRM-free music
    posted 10/17/2007

Instant Music
    posted 10/10/2007

Very Legit iTunes Rival
    posted 10/1/2007

Quote of the Year
    posted 9/21/2007

Prince and the Devolution?
    posted 9/14/2007

Does Street Date Still Matter?
    posted 9/13/2007