The Scapegoat

Oh, record label.

It seems to be all your fault. All your fault that we are where we are. You royally screwed it up for us, way back, and now we are left to deal with your ruin. Our industry is hurting, reeling actually, and if only you had made some different moves back in the day. If only you hadn’t invested that money, that time, those resources. If only you hadn’t done such things, we all would be way better off now.

Why were you trying to make a profit? Why were you trying to run a business? Couldn’t you see that the day would come when we wouldn’t need you anymore? When your money and services would lose their value? It would have been so much better if you had just stopped while you were ahead.

But you kept going. Artists kept coming to you. The rest of the industry continued to put their eggs in your basket, often paralyzed if you weren’t at the party.

And what was it all for? Did you really think your popularity would survive?

Did you think we would really need you in 2009?

Yes, I work at a record label. Yes, I am being extremely sarcastic. Yes, I may have somewhat of a slanted view. Yes, you may think I am crazy, old-fashioned, leaving out lots of dirty details and altogether misrepresenting history.

But, especially if you work in the industry, look me in the eyes and tell me the record labels have not played a huge role in building any sort of industry out of this crazy mess. Tell me your job is nary a result of one, or many, record labels that were in-motion far before you ever came around. Tell me about your superstar that never had label-backing.

Yeah, I know things are pretty f’d up right now, but so goes the world. Yes, I know record labels do things wrong. Keep in mind though, you don’t.

Remember, all of your decisions have been made with the purest of intent; never for money, never for career advancement, never for personal gain or fame.

As we all attempt to figure out the future, try to have some semblance of respect for a part of the equation that is still sought after, but rarely credited.


5 thoughts on “The Scapegoat

  1. I’m not seeing a lot of real criticisms of labels in this post. Here’s a few to start with: shortsightedness in regard to developing technologies, persecuting individual customers (there’s a public relations coup), signing artists to byzantine and exploitative contracts, giving up on those artists almost immediately rather than developing them — and my most recent gripe, forcing mastering engineers to jack up loudness levels past the point of distortion in a misguided attempt to sound “modern.”

    Bless the labels that built the business, which I know were out to make a buck just like anybody. But pursuing short-term gain via the above practices isn’t good for anybody in the long run.

    • Chris, thanks for reading, and I’m certainly not going to disagree with any of your criticisms of record labels. I work at one, but I’m not married to one. I am all about an honest conversation looking into the true history involved in the music industry, and seeing what brought us to where we are today.

      My goal in this post was to make a point that record labels often receive 100% of the blame for the problems we are all currently dealing with.

      I went ahead and wrote this post after reading what Bob Lefsetz said earlier today (IEBA post) about how exorbitant artist guarantees had become in the live performance sector (which didn’t help the industry one bit).

  2. During Next Big Nashville I posed a question to the indie panelists:

    “How do you intend to fund your marketing efforts?”

    The answer:

    None. Well, one.

    “That’s the million dollar question.”

    Of course it is. That’s why I asked it.

    The labels will always rule because they have the cashish. And they are the only ones dumb enough to invest it in making albums, tours, and such. Anyone with sense is doing other things.

      • Chris, I’m glad to learn more about your view of a record label. You may be right, but I still don’t understand why you’re taking such a negative slant.

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