In an era where the necessity of major record labels comes into question repeatedly, so it follows the labels have decided to insist their role in the music industry has not diminished. According to BBC 6Music News, The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) blasted in a report the “myth” that artists can make it without a label.
The CEO of the Featured Artists’ Coalition, Jeremy Silver, poses that artists can do fine by themselves. “The combination of touring, playing live, and working online is really starting to make a difference,” he said. “Increasingly we’re starting to see artists emerging that are selling out venues without having had any mainstream exposure whatsoever and without the involvement of a major record label, but having developed fan communities online who know about them.”
Hogwash, says IFPI CEO John Kennedy. “There’s not really any evidence of anybody succeeding having gone direct,” he said. And before you go shouting out names like Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen, and, uh, OK Go, keep in mind that they’re all (kind of) on major labels now; in Radiohead’s case, “going direct” may have only worked because of previous major label success.
You may want to rethink that “friend 20,000 people on MySpace” strategy for your band, according to Kennedy, who said using MySpace and the Internet alone to start a career was comparable to “screaming in space.”
The IFPI says that the roughly $1 million (a conservative number) labels invest in each new act for touring, records and videos is a risk that is returned in less than one in five cases. “I wish there were other people investing the kind of money and expertise that we do into new artists, but unfortunately that just isn’t happening,” said Mike Smith of Columbia Records.
However, there was a time when this kind of defense wasn’t necessary — it was a given that a major label was the only way to the top. Silver says the digital era signals a “future opportunity for a much more varied set of approaches for building a career as a musician.”