Label vs. Enable

Despite the fact that I in fact am in charge of a record label, I find it difficult to understand why artists feel the need to get involved with a label at all these days.

Sadly the intention to "get signed" appears to come down to cash. Artists have created something and/or want to increase their profile, so they seek out someone to fund, manage, distribute and market their product. All of which costs money - so essentially they need an investor. Enter the label.

I'm still astonished at how labels behave as majority shareholders in thier artist's careers. With high expectations, if the investment dosen't perform within its first year, the funds are pulled.

But creating music is different than making your average product. It is art - and it needs to be developed over time. Getting all your financial and strategic support from a label may seem like you have been awarded a fast track to success - however, this is increasingly not the case.

All businesses need investment, but the great opportunities of our new industry mean that any artist can actually ship their work themselves - and market it to a global audience. This hurdle that had necessitated both the network and the financial muscle of a label (never mind recording costs - which have also shrunk) is now lifted. Artists must realise that they have to invest more of themselves into their careers than simply making the music.

There are plenty of great examples of success by independent artists who have had the courage to step out on their own from the very beginning. Temposhark are a prime example - releasing both of their albums on their own imprint Paper & Glue. They bootstrapped their way into many a fan's heart with sheer determination - and some clever use of social media. Their latest album Threads was funded via Slice the Pie - the crowd funding site that allows fans to invest in an artist and even collect dividends.

Yes it is hard work - but the fact is it can work. Gaymonkey was set up under a similar premise - we simply couldn't bear the thought of working so hard under the constraints a major label would place on us. For us a record label is more than just injecting cash to take a share in an artist's success - we want to enable the artist to achieve their vision, whatever that might be. That involves working as a team, and each party taking responsibility for areas of the artist's unique business plan.

With the objective being to make great music, its a different business model to most - and one we're still perfecting. But I hope other artists will be inspired to do the same - rather than just look for a quick win from the men in suits.

Image by TheTruthAbout on Flickr

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