as little as Ten years ago, landing a major label deal was a hopeful artist’s ultimate dream. While the hype still resonates, today’s music industry landscape has largely centered around the declining prestige and dominance of powerful labels. The trend of smaller labels and independent artists rising to prominence in today’s music scene, without the help of major labels, begs the question: what is the real value of a house? records in today’s music industry?
Are record labels dying?
In the past, major labels were responsible for the development, distribution and marketing of artists. Without them, artists would have very little chance of succeeding unless they wanted to handle all the technical, marketing and business aspects on their own. For a beginner artist, it was practically impossible. These were insurmountable challenges for anyone who didn’t already have a significant presence in the industry or had a lot of money to invest in their career.
But today the game has changed and record labels no longer have the impact they once had. We are often told that “bold managers are the biggest threat to record labels”. Why? Because developing, distributing and marketing music have become tasks that no longer always require a gigantic team or an interconnected network. Instead, the right manager can oversee business operations, outsource production, and negotiate distribution. With so much creativity and social media-centric marketing, managers and artists can handle all aspects of creative and community management.
Yet record labels play an important role in the development of artists, fostering a body of work and individual growth while emphasizing profitability and data-driven results. Many musicians fail in the industry because they lack proper guidance on finding a niche, money-making opportunities, or the right path for them. Music sponsorship – which is essentially what record labels provide – still has value in today’s ever-changing music industry.
From my point of view as co-founder of an independent label, we are in a musical period similar to the Italian Renaissance. Of course, pop music is constantly evolving both sonically and lyrically, but much like the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries, we also live in a time when the very way music is created, consumed, and shared has radically changed. exchange.
Comparing the Renaissance with today’s musical landscape shows that record labels large and small are essentially for-profit patrons. During the Italian Renaissance, the Catholic Church and many of its popes were patrons of human history — financing of art, construction, industry, commerce and more. Likewise, the Italian Renaissance saw an increase in “angel investors”, families with massive wealth and specific tastes: the Medicis, the Sforzas, the Borgheses or the Barberinis.
We can re-imagine today’s major record companies acting in the same way as the Catholic Church during the Italian Renaissance: commissioning great works on easy-to-sell themes that are popular with the masses. This means that major record labels can still help relatively unknown artists become household names and land much larger paychecks in a short period of time, sometimes at the expense of an artist’s preferred terms. In short, they help artists who really want to get to market as quickly as possible, just like the Catholic Church did for Michelangelo or Raphael.
What does a record company do?
Beyond selling an accelerated dream to an artist’s success, major record labels have their own captive audiences. There’s real value to that kind of quick exposure, which is why major labels don’t need to be completely eliminated from the equation as patrons of musical talent. But their uniqueness and necessity have been greatly reduced as alternative paths to success have become available.
Some of today’s top labels are more specialized precisely because it allows them to provide tailored resources to each artist under the label. With many emerging artists today wanting to retain as much control over their music as possible, it’s important that smaller labels recognize this. Niche labels today may occupy the same space as individual patrons and famous families of the 15th-century Renaissance, who commissioned a greater variety of non-religious themes and allowed greater artistic freedom. When smaller labels create a more personalized feel to develop a direct connection with their artists, they give artists the priority they want, while gaining the initial capital investment and important connections needed to accelerate their careers.
The Renaissance was a period of such artistic flourishing that there was plenty of room for a variety of patrons, from the Catholic Church and its popes to the most politically powerful families in Italy. Both classes of patrons have sponsored artists, and in the same way it should be recognized that independent labels and majors play very different games. Major labels might tend to prioritize their return over an artist’s longevity, much like the Church did with Michaelangelo’s Sixtine Chapel or da Vinci Last Supper. Rather than operating as a partner investing in long-term careers or as a benevolent patron of the arts, major labels prefer to bank on more advanced artists who are on the verge of making a hit that the label can make their own.
We are truly in the midst of a musical renaissance, where not only are we experimenting sonically, but we are also democratizing the way music is produced, marketed and distributed. Providing artists with greater control over their music, brand, and career trajectory is important in today’s business environment when it comes to independent or boutique record labels. If there’s anything the Italian Renaissance can teach us, it’s that there’s enough room for giant labels and small niche outfits – as long as there’s no shortage of musicians. talents capable of building and monetizing a large audience.