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Labeling the Next Decade

January 19, 2010

Welcome to 2010!  The promise of the New Year brings the eager anticipation of the next big you-name-it. For the music companies, it’s the next act or business venture to showcase their talent, for songwriters it’s the next hit song, for artists it’s the next opportunity to achieve the next level of success in their careers, and so on.  The sky’s the limit. It’s a new decade, and we’re in the middle of a massive transformation of how we do business.   Technology has enabled innumerable new ways to introduce music to consumers.   That’s great news for fans and the music community. The modern technological landscape has empowered artists with new, promising opportunities to generate their own success. But it cannot be overlooked that -- more often than not -- it is the music label that uniquely helps the artist cross the bridge between anonymity and artistic and commercial success. Two recent news articles help illustrate this point.  Fortune Magazine profiled A&M/Octone founder and CEO James Diener and his work to catapult one aspiring band, Hollywood Undead, to broader success:  

One imagines a predatory record executive sweet-talking naive teenagers, but the band members sound surprisingly savvy when they explain why they decided to sign with a label rather than use their Internet popularity to go it alone. Ragan, a rapper, says that he wishes he were making more money and that he knows he could have retained more of the band's profits had he not signed with a label, but he still believes he needed business backing in order to break into the mainstream. "If you want to be a huge band, you have to have a record label," he says.

The piece continues:


Few artists have the time and money to orchestrate the type of campaign it takes to break into the mainstream. Before success hit, Hollywood Undead's members worked day jobs as jewelry salesmen and security guards. Most musicians would rather focus on their craft than drive around promoting songs, booking shows, and cold-calling radio stations. Of course, they could outsource those tasks-but then they'd be running their own label.

No doubt, the use of a variety of technological tools to generate attention and build and nurture a fan base is more crucial than ever.   But more often than not, those methods alone are no substitute for the invaluable business, marketing, legal and promotional support of a modern music label.   As a recent Forbes magazine story on the abundance of innovative services for aspiring artists concluded:  


Don't expect to become rich doing any of this. Getting a record deal from a major label is still a long shot. Labels undoubtedly can help artists get their careers to the next level. For example, former MySpace phenom Colbie Caillat became a bona fide pop star after signing with Universal Republic Records. But some acts like working with smaller, independent labels, and others prefer not to sign at all, keeping control over their work (and revenue) in their own hands.

We welcome the fact that there are now a variety of avenues for musicians to achieve whatever form of success they seek.   What’s clear, though, is that the modern music label – now a diversified, full-service entertainment firm -- is usually the catalyst for breaking through the cluttered digital media marketplace and building a wide and deep audience.  2010 is sure to be filled with even more opportunities for the music community and fans alike. There will no doubt be ups and downs, critics and enthusiasts, hits and flops, and all the madness that makes this industry great.   We’re eager for the thrill and look forward to bringing fans memorable music in the next decade and beyond.

Cara Duckworth