The challenge for today’s record labels is to undo everything that they have created or has happened over the last 50 years. The record labels arose as a way to get music out of its city venue limitations and into the greater world.
Once upon a time, many many many (to borrow from Commandant Lassard from Police Academy) wonderful record labels existed. However in time these record labels formed into mega corporations with the emphasis on lower costs and high profit margins. Smaller labels got taken over by medium sized labels and in time, medium sized labels got taken over by large sized labels. Throughout the Eighties and Nineties, the labels employed people that figured out how to engineer processes and machines to drive productivity and profit.
The labels ruled the kingdom unchallenged until another corporation called social disruption reared its head.
It started with a technology called Napster and society showed the powerful record labels what they think of their high prices.
Today social disruption is real and growing and the mega labels don’t like it. It means that they have to step down from their thrones, and create real social human relationships. It means that the artists who used to be locked away and surrounded by enablers need to build personal relationships with their fans.
The ones that are failing to do it have already fallen by the wayside. The ones that achieved success during the gatekeeper controlled era of the record label are dabbling in it and then there are the ones who are just good at it.
Let’s see what the record labels are doing;
First lets get one thing out of the way. The record labels still serve a purpose. Most of the music I purchase or stream are from bands on a record label. However, they have dished out so much bad will in the last 20 years, it’s hard to be supportive.
In the last 10 years, the record labels have constantly stated that the “biggest threat” they face is continued copyright infringement. They point to research that shows how it is destroying businesses, employments and other sectors. They get people in the press and they get elected politicians on their side who believe those claims. Because, hey, big copyright monopoly companies said that copyright infringement is a threat so it must be a threat.
Did you know that Vivendi (owner of Universal Music) commissioned 23 reports and only 5 of those reports mentioned copyright infringement as a potential risk. Guess which reports got released to the public. Universal is also known as a robotic copyright enforcer. Go to Google and see their transparency report.
Did you know that Sony (Sony Music and Sony Pictures) commissioned 15 reports and only 2 of those reports mentioned copyright infringement as a potential risk. Did you know that in their recent annual report the company listed copyright infringement as a major risk to their business, however 13 reports out of 15 disagree.
The record labels seem to forget that humans need to belong. That is why we connect with family, artists, sporting teams/individuals, movies, books and the community. When we belong to something, we believe that our existence is enhanced because we belong to a certain group.
Growing up the Eighties I believed in music/artists, sports and the law. Over the last 20 years, music has done its best to disgrace itself. First off the $30 price tag for a CD. Then the Record Labels killed off the whole hard rock genre even though fans of that genre still existed. The artists that I believed in all imploded forced out of the music business by the gatekeepers.
Metallica went alternative and then went against their sharing nature when they took Napster to court.
Motley Crue went sideways when they released Vince Neil and then released a great album with John Corabi that no one heard and then when they got Vince back they went sideways again with “Generation Swine”. Then Tommy Lee left and “New Tattoo” was a bland affair. It took “The Dirt” and a couple of interesting home movies starring Tommy Lee and Vince Neil that set them back up again.
The sports team that I supported had to merge with another sporting team to become the West Tigers (I was a Tigers fan). It is now a hybrid team. Soccer (football) in Australia kept on declining in a white wash of corruption and ethnic teams.
Then after I had kids and they started to show sporting potential, I find out that the representative teams pick the best players of the parents who have the capacity to pay the $1500 to $2000 fee.
The law has shown that it was never about the law but about the people who had the capacity to pay. Copyright infringers get punishments more severe than murderers and drug dealers.
Who should I believe in now? Who should my children believe in?
Music still plays an important part of my life. The ideals of artists who have sadly departed like Randy Rhoads and Dimebag Darrell still inspire and still matter.
The viewpoints of current artists like Robb Flynn, Dee Snider, Nikki Sixx, Randy Blythe, Bob Daisley, Dave Mustaine and many others still matter.
Technology is another enterprise that I believe in. The sharing of culture and the expansion of the public domain is another area that I believe in.
And I’m finding out that others also believe the same as me.