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Major label meltdown

July 22, 2009

I came across this interesting blog about one particular attempt at a new way of distributing music in the post-big-label world: Artists Find Backers as Labels Wane

The article focuses on a venture called Polyphonic founded by Brian Message, Radiohead’s manager.

One interesting quote within the article: ‘….We are all witnessing major labels starting to shed artists that are hitting only 80,000 or 100,000 unit sales,’ said Adam Driscoll another Polyphonic founder and chief executive of the British media company MAMA Group.

Holy crap! If you’re failing when you only sell 100,000 copies of an album, then it’s no wonder the music business is unsustainable. The economic models are clearly all wrong. I’m sure that manufacturers of almost any other commercial product could turn a profit with sales figures like that. Hell, I make a profit when I shift 100 copies of a CD.

The article says: ‘The Polyphonic founders, who have provided the company with $20 million in seed financing, say they plan to invest around $300,000 in each band. The company will then guide musicians and their business managers — who will function a little like the band’s chief executive — to services like Topspin, which helps manage a band’s online presence, and TuneCore, a company that distributes music to online services like iTunes, Amazon and Napster.’

Amazingly, one can contact people like Tunecore yourself and you don’t actually need ‘guidance’ – a simple web search will lead you to their self-explanatory website. I suspect the $300,000 promised by Polyphonic will be spent on marketing, placing ads on social networking sites and so on. It’s amazing how much it costs to achieve not much these days, though, as people are increasingly filtering advertising out or paying a small fee to sites to not be advertised at. I wonder if Polyphonic have something cleverer than that in mind; they’ll need to.

Self publ;icity

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2009 3:35 pm

    Is it any wonder that labels are failing if they need to shift 100,000 albums to create a profit? They must either be a) the most inefficient or b) the most greedy organizations in the world. Either way they’re doomed!

  2. July 23, 2009 8:10 am

    I supect it shows how much money goes into nothing but marketing which then has to be recouped. Artists suddenly become famous (Lady Gaga, La Roux, Pixie Lott) from out of nowhere with no track record of building a career with years of hard work and preparation and are instantly in every newspaper and on every radio. That costs a lot of money.

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