(Updated version of netBloc Vol. 9's liner-notes essay)
October proved to be quite the shake up for the bloated music industry. I've been saying all along that the industry is in bad shape, much thanks to it's narrow-minded greedy outlook on what place music has in this world. To them, the collective music industry, music is a commodity. To music lovers – it's art, it's love, it's so much more than a mere object to be bought and sold. This outlook is at the core of why the industry just doesn't "get it". Thanks to their not "getting it", some major artists who have been part of that very same industry are seceeding from it to go it alone.
Does Radiohead, Madonna, Nine Inch Nails, Saul Williams, Oasis, Jamiroquai or The Charlatans ring a bell? Probably so. What do they have in common? They are all releasing their music independently. Now, independent is not such a revolutionary thing in itself. There have long been artists who have gone it independently, on smaller labels. What's different now is that these artists are going a completely different route. Most are letting the fans decide how much to pay or giving away their music. Madonna is of course not so revolutionary in her move. She's splitting from her long time label Warner Brothers and will release her music via a concert promotion company which will most likely allow her to keep a much larger portion of her sales. The key here is control. All artists have chosen to control how much or how little they stand to make from their music. No more will they be subjected to percentage points and losing their publishing. However, this isn't a new idea either. Prince did it in '96. Public Enemy did it in '99. The difference now? In '96 and in '99, Prince and PE were both forging new roads, they both had to struggle to build their independent situations. It would appear at the surface that Prince gave up and entered back into bed with the majors... though when you look closer, his current situation is one of a controlling position and quite a unique position at that. He keeps a larger piece of the pie and keeps his publishing. He even chose to give away his album "Planet Earth" in the UK with copies of Daily Mail's Sunday edition! He was able to forge a new controlling situation for himself. Other artists are not Prince and thus will need to venture out on their own and stay on their own for it to work for them. So again, how is today different? In 2007, artists have a lot less to lose. The industry is ever increasingly singles-driven and no longer promotes albums or longevity. It's all about pumping the latest crop of music product out to the promotion machine. That means that artists that are barely a year old are already finding they can't get proper promotion. Imagine artists who have been around for more than a couple years! It's gotten to a point that artists can promote themselves better and cheaper on their own.
It now looks as though it's a wiser move to be independent than it is to try and get a "record deal". (Hey Lars, it looks like you actually have more control when you side with your fans – just something to think about.) Some are saying that it's only possible for them to make it because they already have a fan base. True, that is an advantage. However there are artists who are relatively unknown who have been doing what Radiohead is currently doing for a while now. Josh Woodward who you can find featured on netBloc Vol. 8 is one artist in particular who has noticed a marked increase in CD sales since he started allowing the buyer to set his/her price.
It again all comes down to an infrastructure. A way for music lovers to simplify the process of finding the best music that the net has to offer. Once this infrastructure is in place, the naysayers will be wanting a piece of the pie.
In the meantime, I for one am enjoying seeing the greedy music industry splinter and implode.
Enjoy netBloc Vol. 9! Thanks again to all participating artists/labels! Be sure to check out their websites – you'll find links on all release download pages. Thanks to all of you who continue to come back for more net audio gems every month!
Owner / Creator blocSonic.com