Labels, be gone

The latest big band breaking free from a label contract is Nine Inch Nails. After Radiohead, Prince’s rebellion, and Bruce Springsteen giving away the first single of his new album for free, things are just changing in the music business.

The importance of the labels is quickly fading away, and the digital music revolution (and piracy) had its part on it. And that’s a good thing, because the profession of a musician goes back to its basics: lots of touring and live performances, and no “star” status. If the big 4 labels go out of business, soon enough there won’t be stardom, but simply a profession that will earn you $150,000 per year if you are really good, and $15,000 if you are not.

Be gone will be the times that artists will be selling millions of copies, shoot expensive video clips, snorting cocaine and make big headlines about it, and played on the radio worldwide. Instead, being an artist will be all about being an artist.

This is not to say that some “stars” won’t be arising. Especially if you already have money to invest to your image, you can always hire a PR company that will push your image on the Internet, radio and TV, and a worldwide distributor of music so you can reach other countries too. But these “stars” won’t be controllable by labels where they have to abide to a certain look or do this kind of music or that kind of music. There will be a level of independence instead, an “indie look and sound”.

The truth is, the big losers won’t just be the labels in this case, but also USA as a country. USA’s main “product” is IP, not actual labor and cheap hardware (as it is in China for example). Art is a form of IP and it brings billions to not only the labels, but the US government too. I don’t feel bad about this loss though. Labels have created a status quo, a social behavior, that’s simply not natural. For example, there is no reason for a 16 year old to pee herself when she sees Ricky Martin from 2 meters away shaking his booty. And there is no reason for a 16 year old boy to have long hair and start smoking just because that’s what Guns ‘n’ Roses do. And yet, many teenagers do. Even some adults will wear similar clothes to what a particular star or music movement does. And everyone capitalizes on that.

If labels go away and artists become simply artists, not only the strongest artists will survive (which is a good thing for the consumer as the quality of the music will go up), but things will go back to normal at a social level too. I don’t WANT to go to cnn.com and read about Britney Spears. There is absolutely NO REASON why she should be making headlines. She is not the first neither the last junkie in this world. The fact that she happens to be a singer or a “pop star” is irrelevant to me. And yes, this is how everyone should be thinking too, so the paparazzi stop following her and CNN stops caring. It is disgusting that CNN did not report in their front page about her new album or single (which is the only thing that we should be caring about), but instead everything else that’s none of our business. I am no Britney fan, neither a Lohan or Hilton one. I see no reason why we should be learning everything about them. When you get a job as a secretary you are not asked what’s your religion, your color preference or who’s your boyfriend. So why an artist should be under this scrutiny?

Another interesting article about this is here.

19 Comments »

Adam S wrote on October 8th, 2007 at 1:28 PM PST:

As a musician myself, I love the idea of artists being artists and music being pure, but you’re confusing two very different ideas: art and pop culture. Art is timeless. And pop culture is measured on an egg timer. But art AND pop culture are two very normal parts of any civilization and age.

Watch how they treat Michael Jackson in other countries, they go crazy. Watch how they deal with superstars on other continents, they practically faint. It’s the same everywhere. Youth needs to find someone to imitate, someone who defines their feelings and their time. It’s part of growing. It’s part of forming your own identity. And it’s a very important part of the social structure of humans, not just Americans.

While “artists” may have a better avenue to be recognized, there will still be those people who make teenage girls wet their pants and there will still be dudes that guys want to be. It’s the nature of human pop culture – there’s always an “it” thing.


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Eugenia wrote on October 8th, 2007 at 1:37 PM PST:

Well, I just never felt that way as a teenager. I did like Duran Duran’s John Taylor when I was 12, but if I ever watched him live on front row, or even if he would talk to me, I would be as calm as ever. If other kids can’t be as calm, then they are not coached properly by their teachers or parents and need to get a clue. And it’s not that I don’t know how to enjoy myself (I was the first to go to the dance floor back in the day).

My problem is that the labels capitalize on this that you call “pop culture”. It’s not a simple side effect of their business, they in fact try to push it further. That’s where my problem lies and that’s why I want it going away. It’s a social disease in my opinion that doesn’t endorse free thought, but DEPENDENCE in looks, sounds, art, even habituality.

The fact that I have to endure Spears news daily, it’s just shows a decline in our civilization.

Or maybe I am just too harsh and as usual, I am trying to “optimize” for everything I do or think about.


Dimitar Uzunov wrote on October 8th, 2007 at 2:15 PM PST:

No comment about Paris Hilton yet?? Come on… 😉
Well the sad thing about the situation that even if you don’t care about “celebrities” (people who are famous, because they are, um… famous) you’ll still get bombarded with tons and tons of useless information about them. I was really dissapointed in June when I noticed that CNN had an hour of coverage about her going to prison – is that normal?? War in Darfur, 2100 year old mellon found in Japan, but nooo they had to cover Paris Hilton.


Thom Holwerda wrote on October 8th, 2007 at 2:17 PM PST:

The fact that I have to endure Spears news daily, it’s just shows a decline in our civilization.

No, it just means you are living in the wrong country. Our newspapers do no run Spears news, nor do our news programs.


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Eugenia wrote on October 8th, 2007 at 2:20 PM PST:

Thom, other countries do similar things too. In Greece for example, politicians are either idiots or corrupted and news outlets are capitalizing on them when calling names to each other. There is nothing with substance in Greece’s political world, and yet the newspapers are bombarding the people with complete and utter useless CRAP daily. Politicians are “pop culture” in Greece more than artists are.


Billy wrote on October 8th, 2007 at 4:11 PM PST:

Thom, other countries do similar things too

Thom is just being his usual “my country is better than your country” self; just ignore him. (My personal favorite of his many false claims is that his country could never have serial killers, but I’m sure that eventually he’ll make my day with an even more laughable claim.)

I do think you’re being quite silly, Eugenia, though, in your assumptions. Things changing in the music industry don’t mean that promotion or celebrity is going away. There’s way too much content out there for people to filter through it themselves, and people have always been fascinated by celebrity, whether it’s a president like Kennedy or trash like Britney.

The news industries are going to print what people want to read. If that’s something trivial like Britney’s motherhood stories or weeklong segments about Anna Nicole Smith, so be it. It brings in viewers, even if you don’t like it, just like Thom’s constant flame-war-baiting on OSnews brought in a lot of bored college kids daily until the sane ones tired of it. (But not in his country, of course, where every single person is intelligent, loves reasonable discourse, and proudly stands above the average filthy American slob. 😉

Hoping that the aforementioned artists moving away from labels (each of whom is only a big name because of promotion, by the way) will somehow mean that little girls won’t want to idolize people you find uninteresting is a bit…optimistic.

If other kids can’t be as calm, then they are not coached properly by their teachers or parents and need to get a clue

“Any little girl who wasn’t like me had bad parents and was an idiot.” 😉


Thom Holwerda wrote on October 8th, 2007 at 4:19 PM PST:

> Thom is just being his usual “my country is better than your country” self; just ignore him.

Well, our newspapers in fact are NOT filled with Spears nonsense, nor are our television news broadcasts. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

> (My personal favorite of his many false claims is that his country could never have serial killers, but I’m sure that eventually he’ll make my day with an even more laughable claim.)

Now you are just making stuff up.

> just like Thom’s constant flame-war-baiting on OSnews brought in a lot of bored college kids daily until the sane ones tired of it.

??

> (But not in his country, of course, where every single person is intelligent, loves reasonable discourse, and proudly stands above the average filthy American slob.

Well, this comment of yours doesn’t really bust that image.


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Eugenia wrote on October 8th, 2007 at 4:32 PM PST:

Billy, I don’t know what you ate today, but check your food for Distortion Field Cucumbers (DFC).

While I would agree with you that Thom needs to take it easier with chauvinism, he is not a flame baiter. You either have a wrong view of him, or your employer has modified the way you understand the news world (again, check for DFCs).

>what people want to read

This is exactly my problem. That people want to read crap. That’s the social problem I mentioned above — that labels make WORSE.

Finally, yes, girls who are passing out for musicians, ARE idiots.


Billy wrote on October 8th, 2007 at 4:40 PM PST:

You either have a wrong view of him, or your employer has modified the way you understand the news world

Given my opinion of Thom’s “news” abilities were formed before I even left college, let alone had a job, I doubt it. 😉

Finally, yes, girls who are passing out for musicians, ARE idiots.

No comment.


Billy wrote on October 8th, 2007 at 4:45 PM PST:

> (My personal favorite of his many false claims is that his country could never have serial killers, but I’m sure that eventually he’ll make my day with an even more laughable claim.)

Now you are just making stuff up.

“My country lacks serial killers, but if we did have them…” Direct quote.


Ivan wrote on October 8th, 2007 at 9:42 PM PST:

Pop-artists are rolemodels. Young people look up to them and see them as pathfinders. So when Britney shaves her head, or Kurt Cobain shoots himself in the head, it is newsworthy, both for the kids and for the parents. I’m a teacher for 13 years now, teaching 15 year olds. Some kids put these things in the right perspective, some kids don’t, that is my experience. You can only hope that education will help them. Responsibility lies with each individual, pop-stars included. Don’t blame the labels for they exist by the sake of consumers.
I forgot to mention I live in Belgium, the homeland of Mark Dutroux, although I don’t think it is relevant in this matter. This week, Hans Van Temsche is on trial in my country. Hans is now 19. In May last year he shaved his head, put on a black leather jacket, took the train to Antwerp, entered a weapons shop, bought a rifle, and then – with racist motives – shot 3 people, of which 2 died: a Turkish woman, an Ethiopian woman who was babysitting, and Lulu, the 2 year old baby… (The Turkish woman survived.)
The defence lawyers bring arguments forward like he was autistic and played violent computer games, and that his actions were inspired by movies as The Matrix. In my classes I have youngster who are autistic, and many play violent games. I have put my prepared lessons aside and will spend as much time as needed to talk this through with them.
So please, don’t make fun of serial killers. Obviously, you don’t know what you’re talking about, and that’s a good thing…


Brent wrote on October 9th, 2007 at 8:29 AM PST:

Yes, the labels are screwed because they have always been paid for music distribution and for their “star-making machinery behind the popular song.” Distribution costs are now getting close to zero.

But production costs for good musical art remain very high. And so I’m glad you don’t come right out and say that “all music must be free, whether the artist wants it that way or not” as does the person who wrote the TechCrunch article you cited, with such idiotic statements as “artists … will stop thinking of digital music as a source of revenue and start thinking about it as a way to market their real products”.

From previous postings I’ve got the feeling that you understand the production of video (movies and TV shows) much more than you do the production of music. So instead of talking about music, I think you should try your arguments in the video realm instead. You love the TV show “Lost”. Would you argue that because Lost can so easily be copied in P2P networks that the show should be given away for free (no commercials, no money, just free)? Should “Lost” simply be free as a way to sell merchandise (e.g., Lost t-shirts)? Should the actors in Lost not be making a TV show, but instead go back to basics: lots of touring and live performances? Instead of watching Lost on TV (with commercials) or DVD (with rental fees) should Lost videos be a free give-away in hopes that you’ll then by tickets for the weekly live-tour version of Lost in which those actors recreate the show every night on stage? Do any of these statements about Lost being free (although they are made again and again by non-musicians when talking about music) seem absurd to you?


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Eugenia wrote on October 9th, 2007 at 11:40 AM PST:

Brent, I never said that art should be given away for free. While this *might* be adopted at some point to be tried out by some labels or artists, it won’t be the norm. However, what I do believe is that the importance of labels will wash out, not because artists are not interested in them, but because they will lose so much money eventually, that they will have to untie their grip on a lot of things to keep things stable.


Thom Holwerda wrote on October 9th, 2007 at 12:00 PM PST:

(My personal favorite of his many false claims is that his country could never have serial killers, but I’m sure that eventually he’ll make my day with an even more laughable claim.)

Now you are just making stuff up.
“My country lacks serial killers, but if we did have them…” Direct quote.

Like I said, you are making stuff up. “My country lacks” is completely different from “could never have”. We indeed do lack serial killers – there are none. We have no Ted Bundy, no Columbine shooters, no Charles Manson.

I *never* said we “could never have” them. So, yes, you are making stuff up just to make me look bad.

Pathetic.


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Eugenia wrote on October 9th, 2007 at 3:23 PM PST:

Brent, check this out. Today it’s UK, tomorrow it will be US, the day after the world. The music industry in general needs to get a clue or crash and burn. I don’t want to be fined just because I have my window open on my car while listening to music, or when JBQ turns on his big speakers and the neighbors can hear our music.


Edwin wrote on October 10th, 2007 at 2:06 PM PST:

We indeed do lack serial killers – there are none.
There’s Willem van Eijk. There’s Lucia de Berk. There’s Hans van Zon. (All links are Dutch, sorry)

Anyways, fuck major labels and 99.99% of the artists on major labels. Independent, DIY & underground labels are essential, major labels are not. Unless an artist (or a label) is in it for the fame and money.


Michael Reed wrote on October 10th, 2007 at 4:09 PM PST:

I’m a musician and welcome the the idea that technology will shift balance of power between musicians, consumers of music, and the record labels. However, I am sick of the ridiculous IP politics espoused on slashdot. I’m talking about the “all music should be free” nonesense.


Brent wrote on October 11th, 2007 at 8:12 AM PST:

Eugenia, thanks for the link to the next copycrime. Playing music at work in my cube, where someone else may overhear it when they walk buy, would make that a music “performance”? heh. heh heh. That’s absurd. thanks for the link.


Ivan wrote on October 11th, 2007 at 9:33 AM PST:

In Belgium we have an institution called SABAM. They enforce copyright issues. They regularly raid baby showers to check out if music is played. If so, newly parents get a substantial fine, up to 1000 Dollars. Stating that SABAM is very popular, would be an ‘ironic understatement’.


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