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Two Views, Musician And Executive, On The Need For Record Labels

Posted by John on February 7th, 2012

What is the role of record labels in 2012?  Do artists still need record labels or can they do it on their own thanks to consumer digital recording software, Internet distribution and social media marketing?
>Hey, what is a record label anyway? Wikipedia describes a record label as “the company that manages brands and trademarks, coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing and promotion, and enforcement of copyright protection of sound recordings and music videos; conducts talent scouting and development of new artists; and maintains contracts with recording artists and their managers.

There are currently four big record labels (Sony, EMI, Warner, Universal), dozens of mid-size independent labels (Vanguard, Sub-Pop, Dualtone), and countless small labels (Red Barn, Small Horse).

At the recent D: Dive Into Media Conference, two speakers talked about the role of record labels.  First was Neil Young.  Yes, that Neil Young of CSN&Y and “Heart Of Gold” fame.

“What I like about record companies is that they present and nurture artists,” Young said. “That doesn’t exist on iTunes, it doesn’t exist on Amazon. That’s what a record company does, and that’s why I like my record company. People look at record companies like they’re obsolete, but there’s a lot of soul in there – a lot of people who care about music, and that’s very important.”

D: Dive Into Media question:  “Then why is it the case that some artists complain so much about the economics of the industry?”

“Those artists should go by themselves. They have a choice of what they can do. Artists who want to go it alone should just do that,” said Young.

Another speaker with strong opinions about record labels in the digital revolution was
the outgoing chairman of one the biggies, Edgar Bronfman Jr. of the Warner Music Group. Bronfman feels labels remain a necessity in the perceived obsolescence of the recording industry.

“Commercial success still hasn’t come to an artist that isn’t signed to a record label,” Bronfman said. “There are very few artists that can succeed without the help of a record label. The role of the record label is still required, it’s still necessary.”

And not just for musicians. Consumers need labels, as well.  “I really do think consumers are busy, and trying to sort through millions and millions of artists to find the ones that they might like just requires far too much work. That’s where the labels come in,” said Bronfman.

Neil Young comments

Edgar Bronfman, Jr. comments

D: Dive Into Media sponsor AllThingsD

 

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