On Record Labels

Nine Inch Nails, following Radiohead’s lead, is dumping their record label to release their songs directly to consumers.

Lots of folks think this is the death knell for the music industry, and it very well may be, but on some level you have to step back and ask, “wtf?” Sure, NIN and Radiohead can go “indy” now that they’re multimillionaires. But who paid to keep their skinny white asses fed and clothed for years while they built a following?

I don’t mean to weep for the poor labels, they’ve obviously been handsomely compensated for these guys’ work many times over. But just because these big cats can go indie and make a living, doesn’t mean the little cat can do the same. For example, Chris Anderson, he of the “Long Tail,” notes on his blog the story of an independent filmmaker who realizes there just isn’t enough money down on the end of the tail to make a living.

It’s still possible, though, as another Anderson post on Radiohead points out, that the little guys are making significantly more money off of touring that album sales are irrelevant. But it hasn’t been proven yet.

What I would like to see, however, is successful bands like NIN and Radiohead start to support (either with cash or promotional help) new bands that they themselves like. In this way, they could really reclaim the A&R/curatorial role that labels currently still hold.