Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Return Of Sun Records

One of my favorite movies is O Brother Where Art Thou. It's a depression-era adaptation of Homer's Odyssey, and features a ton of great music. At one point in the movie Everett Ulysses McGill (George Clooney) and his fellow prison-escapees find refuge in a lonely radio station, where they record a song, which is released as a single. It's a regional hit, and the song winds up being a key component in the ultimate reunification of the Pater Familius and his estranged family.

This exemplifies the small-time home-grown model of music that existed until Elvis changed it all. Songs were recorded and released by labels like Sun Records, who had the connections to get the material promoted, usually on a regional basis. The artist would then tour regionally and make their money on performances.

This is where music is headed again. With the cost of marketing a release in the stratosphere (even for indies), labels simply cannot afford to pay unproven baby bands' recording budgets. Some even flat out refuse to give advances, and expect delivery of a finished master (while taking merchandise rights and publishing.) Blackout! is fortunate that a partner in the company owns a recording studio, so we're still able to record bands quite reasonably.

Instead of focusing on how to buy "hits", what about figuring out how to use the new (low cost) models of distribution to release moderately recorded and modestly promoted records that have a reasonable break even point?

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