“I think that the thing that major labels have always done that is important in the business is provide highly sophisticated, robust, well-developed processes for artists to reach their highest potential,” VP of New Digital Business at Universal Music Group, Tuhin Roy said.
“At the end of the day, that’s why artists come to us, because they believe we’re going to help them reach their highest potential.”
One more time…
‘…because they believe we’re going to help them reach their highest potential.’
It’s what drives all working artists, the belief that someday, somehow, their dreams will come true, their creations will break into the mainstream consciousness, and their years and years of hard work and commitment will pay off in the end.
And the major record labels have preyed on that precious belief and exploited it to the benefit of their own bank accounts for decades.
Major labels know that artists are willing to do almost anything to reach their goals and live out their dreams, and so they are able to tilt contracts heavily in favor of the label, the artist becoming a sort of indentured servant.
Since many artists are desperate and/or uninformed, they willingly sign a lopsided contract, hoping that their success will solve everything in the end.
The chances of that are next to nil.
And once the contract is signed, the artist is legally obligated to produce music at the label’s discretion, for the duration of the contract. The artist must now make music of the label, by the label, and for the label.
In fact, artists on major record labels today tend to not write their own music. They have their songs crafted at writers’ camps, which author John Seabrook says in his book The Song Machine are “like a pop-up hit factory.”
Record labels and big-time artists put these camps together, and they can last up to two weeks, but usually less than a week. A few dozen beat- and track-makers and melody-makers (“topliners”) get mixed and matched in every way possible until all combinations have been exhausted.
And if the artist happens to be present, they are floating from combo to combo, checking out what each team has going on, working on ideas here and there, keeping and discarding what they like or don’t like. This is how the artist gets credit if and when the song is released — “change a word, get a third” is a well-known phrase in the business.
From The Song Machine: “The peer pressure is such that virtually every session produces a song, which means twelve or more songs a day, or sixty a week, depending on the size of the camp.”
This is all to say that the major record labels wield a great deal of power over their artists, and often end up controlling their entire careers, to the point where an artist no longer produces their own work from a place of authenticity, but instead defers to data, polls, and metrics while choosing a potential earworm from a smorgasbord of songs whipped up in haste by committee.
But things are shifting in a new direction…
People used to complain about streaming services. Now, they appear to be saving the music industry…
Artists are foregoing record labels and securing their own publishing, licensing, and distribution…
And they are growing their fan bases organically, through grassroots campaigns and tours, and connecting via social media and email…
Today it costs virtually nothing to distribute music on the internet, worldwide, or to connect with fans directly…
So why would an artist need a label???
Answer: Relationships and capital.
That’s what the majors offer — they are people who know people who know people who know people, and all of these people have deep pockets, in a world where many artists can’t even afford to buy new pants.
But are those the relationships that artists truly need? Or should artists be more concerned about their relationship with the fans of their music??
And should artists be focused on money first? Always worrying about the bottom line? Or should the artist be serving the Muse, allowing the Muse to flow through them, transmuting its whispers into their art, critics be damned??
The internet has granted artists and fans the opportunity to take the power back from the suits, and show the world that great music matters more than “hits.”
And now Tuhin Roy is hoping to find the next big thing in music…before it’s too late…
From Mashable (10/17): “Universal…announced the launch of its accelerator network in an effort to encourage the emergence of music startups— with the goal of getting Universal in on the ground floor of the next big thing.
“The deal puts Universal at the earliest stage possible with entrepreneurs looking for help in trying something new. The label is working with accelerators at that application process, then lending expertise and mentorship to founders with music-focused startups.
“Justin Hendrix, executive director of NYC Media Lab, said that corporate partners are important for entrepreneurs who might not otherwise have those relationships.
“The goal is to encourage more entrepreneurs and accelerators to focus their energy on music, which can be a daunting and byzantine industry to deal with.
“Universal isn’t taking equity for its efforts, which is the usual deal between startups and acceleartors. Roy said the label sees value in hearing about new ideas from entrepreneurs and having the chance to work with startups from early days.
“‘There’s a reverse learning process for us. We actually learn as we engage in these startups how they view the business which is maybe a view for where things are heading,’ Roy said.”
The labels are starting to see the writing on the wall. They are learning that in order to reach their highest potential, artists don’t necessarily need a major record label anymore.
Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer on 11/03: “I have huge admiration for everything Spotify has done to build their business. We have a complicated relationship with it now because we have to make sure that we’re represented properly and they don’t bypass us. There’s a temptation there, if they’re valued at what they’re supposed to be valued at, they could become larger than all the labels put together. It is my job to maintain the balance. We don’t control distribution and we are therefore not as much in control of our destinies as we were during the boom of CDs, of the explosion of vinyl in the ‘60s.”
Thanks to the internet, artists just need to make great art and connect with the people who love it.
For me, those people are the Bullfighters. The Bullfighters are the members of my fan club, and my band and I only perform in areas within 50 miles of each Bullfighter.
Because the Bullfighters believe in me.
On that note…
I’m excited to announce I’m getting back on the road, and will begin performing my music next week!
Me and two of my band members are hitting the highway to perform a stripped-down, stories-behind-the-songs collection of my music, and we can’t wait to connect with old friends and make new ones.
These will be intimate house shows, taking place in a spacious living room, on a backyard patio, or in a basement or garage; basically, somewhere that will comfortably accommodate 25-30 adults.
Tickets are only $10 and will be available exclusively at the door. There will only be 30 tickets available for each performance, so plan to arrive as early as possible! Doors will open at 8pm, and shows will start at 9pm, or once tickets are sold out.
- 11/16: Portland, ME (8 Arundel Road, Kennebunkport, ME 04046)
- 11/17: Scranton, PA (currently finalizing booking)
- 11/18: Pittsburgh, PA (1111 Woodland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212)
I can’t wait to play my music for you, and connect with old and new friends. See you out there on the road! 😀
P.S. Every Bullfighter get two tickets per year to see me when I come to town, so they never have to worry about a show selling out!
P.P.S. Below is a comprehensive list of Bullfighter cities across the United States. Don’t see your city or state listed? Become a Bullfighter today and we’ll be performing there soon! 🙂
- Montgomery, AL
- Tucson, AZ
- Gilbert, AZ
- Pasadena, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Denver, CO
- Fort Collins, CO
- Bell, FL
- Kissimmee, FL
- Chicago, IL
- Louisville, KY
- Boston, MA
- Portland, ME
- Detroit, MI
- Grand Rapids, MI
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Houston, TX
- San Antonio, TX
- Tacoma, WA
- Beckley, WV
- Huntington, WV