Are record labels dead?

October 15th, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Well, are they?

After Radiohead announced plans to release an album on its own a couple weeks ago, and Madonna looks like she’ll join Prince and other big-name acts to ditch major labels, talk about the death of the industry was bound to surface. CNN discusses it here.

It’s especially topical considering online sales are increasing.

I’m not convinced, however, that all labels are dead. What do you think?

  • Terry Wood

    The Eagles are also releasing an album in two weeks on their own label, but for the first year it’s only being sold by Wal-Mart and the Eagles website. That’s how Wally World got them to play their shareholders meeting this summer at Walton Arena.

    Eagles drummer Don Henley said in a recent interview that with today’s technology, artists with enough clout will be cutting out the labels in the future and brokering their own distribution deals.

    I’ve got no clue what will happen? All I care is that I can get my music.

    But do labels mean anything today? I may be ignorant, but there is no label out there like MoTown was in the 60s and 70s where you know what you are getting by just buying the label.

    I don’t think labels are dead, but I don’t think they develop and support talent like they once did.

  • Terry Wood

    Don Henley on the Eagles’ distribution deal with Wal-Mart from Billboard

    Henley — “I certainly had some trepidation about it, but the business has changed so drastically. Wal-Mart is not a perfect company, but as I have said many times in print, they can’t possibly be any worse than a major record label. My daddy was a small businessman and he was not a fan of big box retailers or chains or franchises. But this is just the world we live in and there aren’t many places where 60-year-old men, no matter how good their record is, can get this kind of promotion and widespread retail coverage. We are artists, but we are also businessmen and we try to live in the real world.

    Some of my environmentalist friends are a little upset because we made this deal with Wal-mMart, but on the other hand I now have the direct line to the CEO of Wal-Mart. I also have a direct line and exchange e-mails on a regular basis with the two whiz-kids they have hired to make the company greener. They have a pretty elaborate and impressive plan laid out.

    You really can’t change things from the outside. We are certainly making our feelings known about what we believe as far as ecological stewardship and some of the practices of big business that are undesirable and wasteful, and I think Wal-Mart is making an effort.

    Let me hasten to add, I am not thrilled with everything Wal-Mart has done, both in terms of doing business with us and on the environmental front and on the matter of some of their employee practices. But you could pick out just about any big company and say the same thing. We wanted to try something new. Everyone has been screaming let’s have a new paradigm in the record industry; let’s figure out a way to do this ourselves. Let’s figure out a way to leave the big dinosaur record companies behind that have been robbing from us — and the consumer — for the last 60-80 years. Ever since the record business became big business, the labels have been suspect. We just thought we would try something different. Some people have praised us for it and some people have damned us for it, but that’s the way it goes.

  • Kevin Kinder

    I can certainly agree that labels aren’t developing talent like they once were.

    In the end, this will probably be a good thing for music, but it may take a while to get there. Music fans have been demanding their music come through different channels (DRM-free online tracks, etc…) for some time. Perhaps this will be the impetus to make that happen.

    I certainly think we’re at a break point. Things will change.