Skip to main content

Death of Record Label? investigates the changing landscape of artist promotion, and the possibility that in the future there won't be any record labels.

"I think it's true to say that the record buying public want to discover new artists for themselves," states Casey Thundertone, founder of fledgling 'reggae-tronica' label Thundertone, which has released cutting edge singles with U Brown and Earl 16.

"They're becoming increasingly aware of the sophisticated marketing tactics the majors employ to plug their artists.

"Savvy buyers are also fully aware that the singles chart is based on corporate marketing might, not the quality of independent music out there.

"This means it's essential for any label to have a strong online presence."

Direct Avenues

With so many direct avenues now open between bands and audiences, the question has been raised as to whether labels are necessary any more, or whether they will be in the near future.

A whole virtual world of online labels, distributors and stores is already established, with more being set up each day.

Yet the physical world of CDs, vinyl and face to face promotion/business dealing is all still very much alive, and many doubt that traditional industry processes will cease operating altogether.

"Record labels aren't totally obsolete yet," reckons Tom Adeyoola, frontman of unsigned hip hop outfit Bussetti.

"Most bands would still rather be playing music than dealing with the business side of things and the financial backing of a label is still essential when you want to break out to a bigger public.

"But in a year or two...who knows?"

Hard To Succeed Without

Katharine Alcock, singer with talented Zero-7-esque chill out champions Maya and side project Southern Down concurs: "On the whole, even in today's climate, artists would find it hard to succeed without being signed to a label," reckons Katharine.

"We are no exception. We can keep projects going on a small scale via the net, but without the time and resources that a contract would offer, we'll be unable to focus as much attention onto making music and getting it out there as we would like.

"We all have demanding full-time careers, and need to earn money to live and make music.

"Labels are signing fewer and fewer artists.

"This is the reality for us and many other musicians at the moment.

"At least the net enables us to get our stuff out there for other people to listen to and enjoy.

"Ultimately, that's the whole point of making music."

Keep Options Open

Perhaps the most sensible thing for new artists then, is to keep all options open.

Use the internet to gain visibility and build a fan base, to test out your music and bolster your contact book.

If it works out well and you can make a living without a record deal, all well and good.

But it's worth bearing in mind that there are also many good labels around ready to help out those who are willing to also help themselves.

"I don't believe that getting a record deal is necessarily moving 'up'," concludes Bob Baker, whose BuzzFactor site offers marketing tips for unsigned artists.

"Teaming up with a label makes sense if you get to the point where you can't handle the workload of growing CD sales, booking requests etc.

"But wanting a label to bail you out because you're not making much progress on your own is not a wise move.

"Do it yourself first…it's the surest path to success."