by Steve Haruch
I recently received a copy of Daylle Deanna Schwartz's Start & Run Your Own Record Label (3rd Edition). This quote on the back cover caught my eye:
"For everyone interested in starting a record label--to market new talent or to release and promote their own music--there has never been a better time to do it!"
My first thought was: Are you kidding? This has got to be exactly the worst time, possibly ever, to start your own record label. All of you can surely cite your own list of casualties, so no need to get into that here. (Incidentally, U.S. album sales are down 37% between 2005-2008.) At the same time, I had another thought, which was that this is the best time, possibly ever, to release music and actually have a chance of reaching an audience larger than your family. Not being a fan of cognitive dissonance, I set out in search of some answers.
Pretty much everyone I sent the quote to was, like me, of two minds. Is it a great time to release albums? "Yeah, but...." Here's the first part of that.
Glenn Peoples, Coolfer:
On one hand, DIY musicians face far lower barriers to entry than they ever have. The cost of starting a label, recording music, digitally distributing that music and marketing the band are all very low, historically speaking. Online marketing can consist of a MySpace page and an email list. Digital distribution can be done cheaply through the likes of TuneCore or RouteNote. Cheap videos can be uploaded to YouTube. Or a band can just give away its music. There are a lot of options.
Aaron Hartley, Theory 8 Records:
I think this quote is somewhat accurate. The internet is making the distance between fan and musician smaller. Of course it is also making things much more crowded and more complicated to cut through the general noise to promote an artist. It does allow a person to start a record label easier; just buy a web domain, design a website, find a band, "release" an album, email a press release to blogs, sign up with Tunecore to get on iTunes and you have yourself a record label. Right?
Michael Eades, YK Records:
Absolutely now is a great time to release records. The amount of online tools that are available, with more popping up all the time, make it possible to get an artists name out to a much wider audience than ever possible before with just a remedial amount of leg work. MySpace and Facebook are a good examples of promotional tools that simply did not exist effectively five years ago and more contemporary sites like Amie Street, Bandcamp or CD Baby allow an artist to digital distribute / sell their music without a massive cut being taken from the purchases. The only snafu in the works comes when considering end goal--artists have to shift their mindset from being solely focused on profit from CD sales to a new way of thinking that is focused more squarely on crunching statistics on the number of people they are reaching and hearing their music.
So, that's the "yeah" part. Look for a big ol' "but" tomorrow.