Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Solution?

Over the last few days there have been quite a few back and forths in the blogosphere regarding the "solution" to the problem with record labels. First Hypebot chimed in with an excellent Manifesto on solving the woes, then it was dissected in the Big Takeover.

The next blog that I read was Techcrunch where they gushed over the model of online label Magnatune. They even went so far as to say "I really think this is the music business model of the future."

To a certain extent I agree, but I'm not sure this is exactly it. Going back to a previous post, tastemaking is a huge part of being a record label, especially an indie. Not to sound like a marketing geek, but there's nothing interesting about Magnatune's branding. It's like Purevolume with a less compelling visual style combined with an excellent commerce engine.

Magnatune isn't part of a scene, they aren't connected in a spiritual way to the people buying their music except for the "We Aren't Evil" slogan. They seem to be selling their mechanism more than the artists who will make them what they are. In other words, I don't see them encroaching on the status of a Matador, Sub Pop, or Merge .

Secondly, I also don't really see what support the label gives to it's artists. Sure, it's absolutely fab that the bands get 50% of everything and that the commerce engine is sorted out so wonderfully. Yes, they do perform certain administrative functions. But does the label pay for recording? How about promoting the artists through publicity and consumer advertising? What about tour support? These are the primary functions that I still believe are the core components of the old-world record label that must follow into the coming digital era.

Keep 'em comin.

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