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Does metal need record labels?


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Like many people, I have derived considerable pleasure over many years listening to music by bands which were signed to record labels: Deep Purple, Scorpions, Dio, and so on.

Nowadays I find myself increasingly attracted to young bands which in many cases have never been signed to a record label – bands such as Frozen Crown and Motion Device.  (The Warning were briefly signed to a label).

Of course this has a lot to do with the rise of the internet.  YouTube allows me to check out just about any band from anywhere in the world, while crowdfunding sites allow me to give them money.  Merchandise sites – and I can think only of bigcartel – also help.

In recent years, I have given money to The Warning, Motion Device, Liliac, Camille and Kennerly, and The Sixsters.  I am not aware that Frozen Crown have ever sought crowdfunding, but I have toyed with the idea of buying some of their online merchandise.

And so I ask the question: does metal need record labels?

Some of you may be thinking that the bands I have supported online are nowhere near as well known as many bands which signed to record labels, and probably never will be.  There is a lot of truth in that.

On the one hand, I do not expect The Warning or Frozen Crown ever to be as big as Metallica or Iron Maiden.  On the other hand, being successful in terms of record sales can have a downside.  Lily Allen said when she released her fourth album that she was one million pounds in debt.  I believe that Michael Schenker once had a similar debt to his record label.  Bands which crowdfund probably have little or no debt.

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On 2/21/2020 at 2:52 PM, GothExplorer said:

And so I ask the question: does metal need record labels?

No, but they can help. Lots of small labels out there will at least handle distribution and help a lot with promotion - taking out ads, getting reviews and interviews lined up, etc. Some will fund or help fund physical copies, help book shows and tours, and even contribute towards recording costs... maybe. There's also the intangible cachet of having something "officially" released. But given the low cost of a decent recording job and ease of distribution these days, being "on a label" is absolutely not necessary; this is all stuff that bands can handle themselves. 

Crowdfunding is a separate issue. I'm not opposed to it in principle, but vanity campaigns turn me off - bands wanting nice packaging or an expensive big-name mix or master job that they can't afford themselves, or help buying a bunch of nice recording gear. That's my own bias; I guess if they ask and people want to chip in and everyone's happy in the end, it's all good. But I wouldn't say that crowdfunding is the only alternative to label support, some bands rely on both and some do fine with neither.

 

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  • 2 months later...

In my experience, it seems like we are experiencing a shift in how we look at labels in the industry. With how easy it is to access distribution with services such as CDBaby, the only real thing that labels seem to have an advantage on these days is marketing. That being said, having done both, being on a label and releasing music independently, I have found that I end up getting a better return off of music that I released myself over what we released through a label.

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  • 8 months later...
On 5/6/2020 at 7:15 PM, Glad00m said:

In my experience, it seems like we are experiencing a shift in how we look at labels in the industry. With how easy it is to access distribution with services such as CDBaby, the only real thing that labels seem to have an advantage on these days is marketing. That being said, having done both, being on a label and releasing music independently, I have found that I end up getting a better return off of music that I released myself over what we released through a label.

Maybe it depends on the label but et moriemur were very impressed with support they got from transcending obscurity records for there epigrammata album. They said thanks to the record labels support they got the sound they really wanted and thought on a bigger label this would not have been the case. 

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