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.

5 Things I’ve learnt from my 3 weeks at The Edinburgh Fringe

For those of my readers that don’t know, I have been working up in Edinburgh for the last few weeks as part of The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Edinburgh Fringe is arguably one of the biggest performing arts festivals in the world, theatre companies come from all over to showcase their productions to huge audiences and reviewers across the whole of the fringe.

I am currently on keys for one of these shows, “Seduction.” Written and perfumed by Ivy Paige (The Voice 2018), it is a mash up of Music and comedy, focusing on the art of Seduction and the empowerment of women in todays society, with a mixture of original material and well known covers thrown in to accompany Ivy’s wicked sense of humor.

This is my first tine at the world renowned Fringe, and here are five important things I have learnt during my time here:

1) It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

This is a phrase I heard continuously from Ivy during the rehearsal period and general build up to day 1 of performances. I must admit I didn’t entirely know what she meant at first, but as we did more shows, had more late nights, it dawned on me how essential it was to rest and get enough sleep.

2) Focus Focus Focus!

As the set up of the shows is literally keys and 2 vocals, it is literally IMPOSSIBLE to hide behind other members of a band if you get stuck. This is why I have to do everything in my power to remain switched on during the show, constantly watching Ivy for different cues for elongating or ending the songs. Writing charts for the show has also helped, doing it from memory just wouldn’t have worked.

3) Develop your own pre-show routines and rituals.

I have always done this for any show run or tour I’ve been a part of but during this show, it feels even more important to the success of my performance every night. I personally like to have a cup of tea and some Nutella on toast before each show, it may sound strange but tea calms me down and the Nutella on toast gives me a little sugar boost. I also walk to the venue every night, this allows me to take in some nice Scottish scenery and clear my head.

4) Network as much as you can

The great thing about being at a month long festival is that you’re surrounded by musicians, producers, directors, sound techs and other creative people from day one. It would be highly beneficial to your career as a musician to get to know all the people on your team, no matter their job role, it could come in handy in the future.

5) Have fun!

Although you are at the festival to work, it is also not illegal to enjoy your time there! Get out and see shows, go to the bars with your team after your show, explore the city during the daytime if you have it free! I have come across loads of great musicians just by walking around the city and happening to hear them busking, I’ve been blown away by the amount of talent Edinburgh has to offer!

I hope these five tips help you first time Fringe Goers to have as much fun as I am!

P.s I have been working on a FRINGE VLOG during my time here, check out episode 1 and two here:

 

Live Review: Past Kings @ The Edge, Basildon

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Past Kings @ Canvey FC. Pictured left to right: Jack Smith (Guitar), Sam Charles (Vocals), Matt Cruise (Guitar) and James Holland (Drums)

Past Kings are a 4 piece indie pop band from Essex made up of Sam Charles, Jack Smith, Matt Cruise and James Holland. All four of these lads are great musicians and song-writers in their own right, some may be more experienced on the live band circuit than others but that does not stop them making a huge impact on the Essex music scene with their infectious lyrics and laid back stage manner.

I’ll admit this review is very late as they performed at The Edge back in June, sorry boys! This was the second time that I had seen them live and I was thoroughly impressed with their stagecraft despite it being early days for the lads.

 

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Past Kings playing a live acoustic session @ Phoenix Fm

One of the things I admired about these guys from day one is the fact that all of the songs in their set bar one or two are original writings, they haven’t done the typical “new band” thing by starting their time on the circuit by playing covers and then progressing to original music, this takes real guts in my opinion because of course, music is a subjective thing and to be brave enough to share your creations with an audience from the word go, definitely shows me that these guys are serious about this whole music thing and definitely want to achieve success.

The best part of all of their performances for me, is the way they plan their sets. I always feel like I’m taken on a journey throughout with songs of varying tempo, style and lyrical meaning. The songs are also quite catchy, my favorite one is definitely “Night Time”, an indie pop ballad with the perfect blend of drums vocals and guitar.

Past Kings live shows are also quite interesting based on the fact that they don’t have a live bassist, instead, they choose to use an electronic bass sound generated by an SPDX drum pad. I’ll come clean right now and say that to start with, I was rather skeptical of this idea and even thought of the band to be a bit lazy because they didn’t have a “full line up”. Of course, I was instantly proven wrong and now see this as a potential unique selling point for the band.

Overall, these guys are great. They’ve got the right attitude, the talent and great songs to top it off, although they are a little green, I predict great things for Past Kings!

Check out their song “Night Time” HERE!

Past Kings on social media:

Facebook

Instagram

Track Review: HARRY – Accessory

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“Harry” is a singer-songwriter and musician from Bow, London. Having already started making her mark throughout the local music scene with her interesting name, impressive list of venues she’s performed at and  catchy songs, this rising star has now began to release her original material for the world to hear, and her debut release “Accessory” is a great first dive into the recording side of the music industry.

I immediately fell in love with this track and had it on loop for weeks, its a perfect combination of original singer-songwriter integrity and your typical pop musical arrangement with lyrics to keep the listener enticed and wanting more!

For me, the lyrics are also something that I feel a lot of young females could relate to when it comes to relationships and the way they can be treated by their partners. However, the way the song has been arranged doesn’t make it too serious and depressing!

The music video is really cool too and does a brilliant job of bringing the song to life, not that it needed much for that to happen anyway. As a fellow musician myself, I can usually pick out at least one thing I don’t like about a song that I’m reviewing, this is not the case with Accessory, I simply cannot get enough of it and can certainly see why Harry is gaining more and more attention from industry people in London and beyond.

If you want something to help lift those weekday blues, this is the track for you! Take a listen (and a watch) of Accessory down below, trust me you will not be disappointed in the slightest, I can see great things for this lady, and will be following her career closely from now on!

The track is also available on all streaming platforms!

 

HARRY ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

Twitter: @MissOblivious_
Insta: @MissOblivious_
Facebook: @MissObliviousX