Make A Joyful Noise!
Free At Last From Major Labels?
By: Kenny Love
Free At Last? Free At Last! Thank Technology, I'm Free At Last! I can only imagine this becoming the standard battle cry of many a major label recording artist in the not- so-distant future. A cry in response to he or she regaining his or her "civil" rights , are freed from slavery by Master labels and, subsequently, gain enough self-esteem and confidence to go it alone. Brrrr!
Don't believe me? Then, witness such superstars as Prince, Madonna, and a myriad of others quickly realizing that trimming the excess fat by cutting out unnecessary "middlemen," or "middlewomen," as the case may be, ain't such a bad deal.
I remember "back in the day" (1970's-1980's) when being an independent recording artist was a joke! You led as lonely an existence as the neighborhood crackhead. No one in the industry took you seriously! Sure, you could get the money and have a professional state-of-the-art recording, and top graphic design for your 12-inch vinyl cover. But, so what?
What upstanding music director or disc jockey would put his or her reputation on the line by playing your stuff? Once they realized that the return address did not say Warner, RCA, MCA, Capitol, Motown, or some other big shot label, your goose was cooked. There went wasted time, money, and effort-right down the toilet-literally.
How on earth could you ever hope to have any of the major daily newspaper music editors or major trades such as Rolling Stone, Spin, or Musician review it? Perhaps worst of all, you could kiss organized network distribution goodnight without expecting a morning wake-up call.
Yes, indeed, you were ultimately reduced to sticking your records in the trunk of your car, then peddling them to as many small out-of-the-way stations as possible. And God help you if you were trying to "break" your record in Texas during the summer months. As hot as Texas gets, perhaps that is from where the cuddly name, 'wax', was derived when referring to vinyl.
But, indies are having the last laugh. I double over laughing at the 180-degree turnaround. Somewhere, at some point, there were enough rejected musicians who got finally fed up with receiving rejected product months later, perhaps even years later (I am one of them). Rejected enough to begin a formal independent movement, which spun into many difference micro-movements and networks, to arrive at the independent environment that is so prevalent today.
Today, the Record Pool Directors, Music Directors, Disc Jockeys, Press Editors, and Distributors couldn't care less what the return address says. If it is produced well, fits the format, can be supported with a convincing enough story, along with a track record (pun intended), you're in like my man Flint.
In fact, today, the majors have, for the most part, surrendered in the war of "breaking" records, opting to let the indies wage it among themselves. When the smoke clears, and depending on who is still standing among the indies, they swoop down and scoop up like the Red Cross.
Much of this independent success can be attributed to the affordability of technology to the consumer combined with the communication power and speed of the Internet. Distribution, traditionally, the most difficult aspect to attain, is now an option as the capabilities to download music files and purchase directly online grows more appeasing every day. And, Major label artists are also recognizing it and following in hot pursuit.
Perhaps, this article was meant to only serve as a pep talk to those indie artists who may feel they are alone in their quests. Trust me-you are not alone. Thousands of musicians across the world, at this very moment, are working on their projects. And, somewhere in that independent haystack are, at least, one Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum needle with Grammy thread through the eyes.
Who knows? Yours just may be one of those threaded needles. Now, if we can only get musicians and their managers to start forcing those club managers into a contract for "live" performances, we will have truly reached The Promised Land.
About Kenny Love: A man whose biggest fear is being aboard a non-stop flight from New York City to Manhattan, Kenny Love is also a National Record Promoter and Press Publicist. Promoting all genres of music, he works with "indies" on a "back-end" deal, saving them enormous up- front service fees.