I’ve lost count of the number of times people have suggested that we start our own record label. And I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve explained to people that the concept of “unsigned” is an unhelpful one.
If you’re not signed to a record label, you’re an independent artist. Simple as that. It’s no reflection on the quality of your music, your artistic integrity or your consumer appeal. You just don’t happen to have a business relationship with people who do that sort of work.
And in a lot of cases, that’s a good thing. We’ve all heard horror stories of working with record labels.
But we know that despite widespread changes to the industry that have opened up all sorts of opportunities to independent artists, people are still very attached to the notion of being ‘signed’ or ‘unsigned’ – and to the various meanings that are often associated with those concepts.
For many, being an ‘unsigned’ artist carries a stigma. So we thought we’d do away with the concept entirely by starting a record label that will sign EVERYONE. Literally everyone.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say ‘no’ to this one, just as I said ‘no’ to the one about the CD being dead. That said, I think we’re going to have to redefine our notion of what constitutes an album.
There is no longer any medium-specific reason for popular songs to be a certain length (3 minutes, give or take for one side of a 78rpm shellac disc) nor for collections of songs to be able to fill two sides of a slab of vinyl (around 22 minutes per side), or for mixes to extend no further than about 80 minutes for a standard (red book) CD.
Digital means the death of scarcity in this regard, so you can have 3 hour songs if you wish, or albums with a million songs on them. I don’t think that necessarily means you should tend to those extremes – though I have to admit I’d get a perverse satisfaction if someone did (which is not a promise to actually listen to the whole thing).
But it does mean that you have the freedom to choose.
I just posted the seed of an idea in Music Think Tank, and I’d be really interested to hear what you think about it. Head on over and have a read.
Essentially, the idea is that the Record Industry should offer a cash prize to the most innovative and successful new online music business startup. Moreover, tech entrepreneurs who enter to compete for that prize should be exempt from royalties for two years while they grow their business and prove their concept.
Other than that – no real rules. I think it would probably be a mistake to impose upon the technologists criteria such as ‘it should be about streaming’ or ‘retail models only’. The idea is to cast the net wide in order to generate new ideas that will grow the industry. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Its aim is to provide useful resources, advice and strategies for innovation and success in the independent music sector in a rapidly changing technological environment.
NMS examines emerging technologies (and buzzwords) such as AI, blockchain, metaverse and 'Web 3.0', but focuses primarily on sustainability, music as a tool for social change, participation, equality and inclusion, and the ways in which music technologies can build better worlds.