Record Labels: Are They Really Needed?

Over the years, technology has seen many changes in the way the music industry operates and functions. One of the most notorious changes has been that of the record label.

What Are Record Labels?

For those of you that don’t know, a record label is a company that is in charge of marketing and distributing the music of artists to digital and phsyical music stores around the world. (HMV, Itunes, Spotify etc). There are still several record labels operating wordwide, but not anywhere near as many as there used to be.

Major Labels

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“The Big Three”

As of 2012, there are only 3 labels that are considered “major”. Major labels tend to sign acts like Adele, Justin Bieber and other successful artists. The “big three” as they are known are: Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group.

These days, a lot of labels are brought out by these big three and continue as “sub-labels” under either the Sony, Universal or Warner umbrellas. This generally happens in order to enable the labels to continue operating as well as giving them access to the resources available to the big three.

Independent Labels

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Cool Thing Records

Along with major labels, there are independent or “indie” labels. These labels are not associated with any major or sub label and are generally created by unsigned bands in order to give them a more professional look. Some bands start by distributing their own music and then progress onto distributing the music of other bands.

A local independent label currently gaining popularity is “Cool Thing Records” a label started by Southend based band “Asylums.”

How Technology has changed the need for labels

download-1.pngIn the 21st Century music business, there are several companies and websites that enable artists to make their music available on digital platforms such as Itunes and Spotify. The two topped ranked companies for this are CDBaby and Distrokid; in order to make your music purchasable/streamable to the world, you simply pay a small fee, upload your music and artwork and wait for it to appear.

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Andie Case

There are several unsigned or independent artists that have seen top 40  success without the help of the big three. The most memorable example of this has got to be U.S Singer-Songwriter Andie Case; she uploaded a song to Itunes and within a few weeks it was being played on the UK Top 40, her career then sky rocketed and she is still experiencing success today.

Previously mentioned Indie band “Asylums” has also experienced great success over the years, being played on John Kennedy’s Radio X show and being able to play some of the biggest festivals in the UK and Europe.

My Personal thoughts

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Spotify is fast becoming the number one music streaming service.

For me, the fact that some of my friends have achieved success without a Universal, Sony or Warner contract says a lot. I feel that perhaps the only major use these “big three” have are their resources and contacts. Of course, in this industry it is all about who you know and not so much what you know but the need of these guys for their contacts could very soon be wiped out by the ease of the internet.

There are artists in all genres that are making a solid living through gigging and Spotify streaming royalties (no major radio airplay) This again, says it all to me. Anybody can distribute their music digitally through the websites mentioned, the only thing that can’t be done without a major label is physical distribution to stores like HMV but they’re dying out slowly anyway.

In conclusion, I think that perhaps in 10-15 years, the big three will be no more, is this necessarily a negative thing? I don’t think so; if you can cut out the middle man and take more money for yourself, why wouldn’t you? Anything is possible thanks to technology these days, you’ve just gotta be brave enough to take the plunge.

 

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Artist Spotlight: Orla Gartland

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Orla Gartland

Orla Gartland is a 23 year old singer songwriter from Dublin, Ireland. She started to try and build a career for herself at 14 by trying to convince the various bars in Dublin to let her perform, declaring “please! I’ll only drink Squash!” Unable to convince any of the landlords to let her perform, she took to the online medium of Youtube and began posting covers of the songs she liked to listen to.

Gradually, she noticed her videos becoming more and more popular, with audiences constantly demanding new videos. Once she had gained a following, Orla began to post her own original material. This proved to be just as popular as her covers and enticed her audience to not only stay, but grow, she now has 11.5 million views on her videos to date.

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Orla performing at a festival. Photo Credit: Phoebe Fox

 

 

I stumbled across Orla completely by accident this morning. There I was scrolling through Facebook when I came across her track “Why Am I Like This”, I was immediately drawn in from the first frame and as the song progressed, I could see the talent oozing from this young genius, she’s only 3 years older than me and certainly puts me to shame!

Deciding to delve deeper into Orla’s social media, I then discovered her latest single ” I Go Crazy.” Once again, I was blown away by this woman’s lyrics and musicality, to say I’m hooked is a gross understatement, Gartland’s music is going to be on a constant loop for quite some time in my house!

Orla is performing various live gigs in the UK and Europe (some as tour support for Hudson Taylor) and I recommend you get down to one of the following UK dates:

It’s no shock to me that Orla is rapidly becoming more popular, will she be a charting artist soon? I hope so! If you need some fresh music to listen to, do yourself a favor and google “Orla Gartland” – you will not be disappointed!

Orla’s social media

Is Singing To Backing Track “live” Music?

This was a recent topic of discussion and debate amongst members of a musicians Facebook group I am a part of. I must admit it was entertaining to read some of the comments on the thread as people had their egos damaged by some home truths on the matter. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on this never ending argument:

For me, live music, is exactly that, a LIVE band with LIVE instruments fronted by a LIVE singer. When I see a poster outside a pub with the words “LIVE MUSIC FRIDAY NIGHT” I, as a musician and avid gig-goer, expect an entirely live performance! Of course, the singer is live, they are actually singing, using their own voice, but some may argue that they are merely a glorified karaoke singer… I mean this in no disrespect to any of my fellow entertainers, but that is essentially what you are doing.

I understand the use of backing tracks amongst some entertainers, it saves costs and allows the said singer to only have to worry about themselves but I do not agree with venues labelling them as live music, because they are only half live. In the Facebook group, there were lots of arguments amongst members on either side, some people even getting into insults and age difference.. really?! I chose not to add my “2 cents” to the conversation simply because it seemed the group were too immature to have a normal discussion..

Another point raised was that there are many famous acts that choose to mime during this performances, this is a completely different thing and bore no relevance to the discussion, but since it mentioned, I’d like to add that I do not agree with this practice, playing to backing tracks for ease when you can’t ship your whole band across the world, fine, miming to said backing track out of laziness, not fine.

Let’s wrap this one up here with this final point from me; singing to a backing tack does NOT necessarily make you a less skilled performer, you still have to be able to sing to a high standard in order to get booked and re-booked by venues. HOWEVER, I know that I would much rather spend my money watching a live band, wether it be covers or originals, than watching one person sing to a track.

 

 

The Music Industry and Mental Health

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Mental health; one of the most common causes of death in todays Music Industry, yet one of the taboo topics amongst industry professionals. Unfortunately, the idea of mental wellbeing is only discussed when someone does the tragic thing of taking their own life.

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U.S Rapper Mac Miller, Dead at 26 due to overdose.

The most recent death in todays industry is U.S Rapper Mac Miller, who was only 26 and died of a drugs overdose. Of course, we don’t know if his overdose was a deliberate act of suicide or not and this is still being investigated by police. However, we are aware of Miller’s struggle with mental health throughout his career and his relationship with Singer Ariana Grande.

The music industry can be a high stress environment to be in, especially when you get to the level that Miller and Grande were working at. In my opinion, the artist of today are not being looked after enough by the industry executives, their mental and physical health are being thrown down the drain in order to maintain their careers, they are too scared to publicly talk about their struggles through fear of stigmatization in the media and amongst their fans.

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Mac Miller with ex girlfriend Arianna Grande

People seem to forget the fact that musicians work crazy, unsociable and even sometimes unhealthy hours. Of course they need to put the work in in order to be a success but I find it shocking that managers aren’t pulling their acts to one side and asking them if they are okay from time to time, it really would make the world of difference.

I sometimes struggle with stress related to work and I’m not working at the rate or level that these “idols” are, thankfully I have friends and family around me to keep an eye on me and encourage me to take time off when its needed, I couldn’t be more grateful.

We’ve seen far too many talented people taken from this world because of mental health and wellbeing being neglected and it needs to change. I am definitely not putting the weight of the tragedy of industry deaths solely on the shoulders of the high industry powers, sometimes people make bad choices all by themselves and refuse the help when its offered, but I am pleading with the industry that I love to start making mental health a more accessible subject to the people within it.