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New Label Models: Which Will Survive?

As CD sales and label profits tumble, a great deal of hope and excitement has been attached to a variety of new models:

  • Music Is Free – And hope to make money elsewhere
  • Name The Price – Radiohead asks the fans to pay whatever they want
  • D.I.Y. – The artist is the label handling or hiring out distribution, marketing, etc.
  • Label As Partner – Band delivers master and label does the rest sharing profits more equitably – often 50/50
  • Ad Supported Releases – One-offs like Prince and the UK newspaper or Pennywise and MySpace
  • Ad Supported Labels – The new RCRD LBL
  • 360 Deals – The band as brand. Labels get a percentage of all revenue streams (albums, tours, merch, etc.) in exchange for longer term career investment
  • The New Old Label – Keep costs down and hope to monetize across multiple revenue from downolads to ringtones to YouTube

    Which model has the greatest chance of success? Its far to early to tell, but several of the models above will probably find traction in the months and years ahead alongside new ones not yet imagined.

    Instead of a single business model controlling an artist's career, wouldn't it be better if release methods become situational depending on genre, where an artist is in their career cycle and their goals for the release? If a band is new or about to embark on a tour, perhaps giving it away (supported by ads or not) makes sense. If you're a budding pop star in need of grooming and mainstream media, then the 360 deal may be for you.

    Artist and fan empowerment is the mantra of Music 2.0. Replacing the old model with a single new one serves no one but the gatekeeper. Choice is freedom; and freedom leads to better music.