31st mar, 2012

A world without record companies

Today I read a comment in the Danish newspaper “Politiken” (haven’t found the article online). The comment was about Danish Rapper LOC giving his latest album away for free (or rather paid by a Danish phone company) and moving away from record company EMI. This move has been hailed as a rebellion against the conservative record publishers unwilling to adapt to the brave new world.
In the comment a guy from Copenhagen Records (small Danish label) gave me a new perspective on record labels and their work. His point was that if LOC was just moving away from his label to sell his own record and earn money for himself this was a harmful move to the music industry.
Why? Because record labels have another job besides publishing LOC, Madonna and Lady Gaga. Their job is to curate the many unpublished artists and develop new names. Each year a lot of the money earned from major artists are channeled towards the lesser artists and developing them. The point made was that when LOC takes away his money there is less to the small developing artists.
This is actually a good point I think.
The counter point is that there are examples of small artists publishing for free on Myspace, Facebook or what not and making it. The new economy guys will have us think that this is the marketing future of music. A darwinistic x-factor for the masses where only the networked survives. Arguably there is a good point there as well…but not the complete picture.
I asked one of my friends who is in publishing if the problem was the same in his business and his answer was yes. Each year the publishers make money from the bestsellers and try to develop new writers and publish niche books as well. This gives us broader access to cultural content – and makes us all richer.
So in my view it’s not a choice between one or the other business model for music – it is a fact that we need both. So the next time you want to tear down the major labels remember that they are nursing some of tomorrows artists from the money they make today.


Yes, we all know they are true experts and that no record company would ever overlook eg. The Beatles.

Also the “small” monopoly that record companies demand, is surely worth the benefit of not having to discover new music on the radio, from a friend or on social networks.

Also, if there were no record companies, who would take on the tough job of bribing the radio-people to make sure our “new-music input” is limited the record-company agendas.


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