Welcome to the Music Industry, 2011: Records Don't Sell, Touring Can Make Bank, and Major Labels Are (Mostly) Useless
Sure, major record labels have been in decline for awhile, due to their inability to anticipate future industry trends. And independent artists have been finding new ways to subvert the majors every day. But this onslaught of news about the world's biggest musicians is a hefty reminder that major labels are only becoming more irrelevant by the day. Here's why:
According to the Soundscan reports, many of the top 10 selling artists sold less in a year than artists used to sell in a single week only a decade ago. While it's not shocking that smaller artists have been hurting in album sales, the fact that even the biggest artists aren't even selling that many (relatively speaking) means something big is wrong.
Meanwhile, the report on Dave Matthews Band and the half billion it earned through touring is just proof of what some artists have been saying for years: the money is in the live shows, not album sales. Instead of album-centered promotion for artists, maybe incessant touring is another option. With the right combination of free music releases and media exposure (read: song licensing), they could probably rack up just as many dollars with more creative control.
And the Beatles deal is a whole other beast entirely. If the biggest band in the world can get their royalties paid directly to them, why wouldn't everyone else try do the same going forward? Now that music relies on physical media less and less, it's looking like the labels need the artists more than the artists need the labels. And the fact that Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend both debuted at number one last year on quasi-independent labels shows that major-label-caliber marketing budgets aren't the only way to attain widespread popularity.
So really, if you were an up and coming artist able to generate sizable buzz before signing with a label, would you go with a major? It just doesn't make sense anymore.
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