So as regular readers of this blog know, a fair amount of the content within is basically just my ruminations on various business models that I think make the most sense in the industry as it stands today. The latest iteration of this is my model for record labels. Now I think that a lot of people feel that in 2017 the record label is totally dead and useless, but I strongly disagree. I’ve written before about how labels are in many ways curators of content, but in my eyes it goes a lot further than that and leads to one of the only record label models that makes sense today and a model which I confidently believe can be used as a way to guide the independent label back to the forefront of the industry and be able to help people across the globe come to discover the minutiae of music that people like me love so goddamn much and which we all want to spend our time working together to truly and properly understand.
Long story short – I think that record labels need to have a tiered system. It is utterly useless and impossible to have a label start and be successful if you don’t have a strong core band. The independent labels that have the most success are the ones that have a core fanbase who buy everything the label puts out, or at least a core fanbase who are willing to give it all a shot. Now this can manifest itself in several different ways. You can either release records from a single genre or scene, you can try and release in a unique format, generally put a lot of effort into presentation or alternatively you could tie everything into a cause. The point being – there’s a lot of different shit that you can use in order to determine a unique entry point into the scene, and that’s fairly obvious, that’s how any business needs to work. I think it’s when you sit down and try to take that to the next level that things can start to become interesting.
See – while it certainly takes a longass time to generate a record label that has any sort of fanbase it’s going from there that you are going to be able to find something to build up your brand significantly. You use the regular income that you have established by having a brand in order to start to produce more stuff in a broader spectrum of music. Much like wit a band you need to be aware of your different significant market segments and figure out how to cater to each of them. In this case with the tiered system your market segments are essentially your core fans, who you have to hold on to as much as possible, your secondary draws, the people who started to find out about you because of your place in the scene but don’t subscribe to your type of music enough to stay deeply committed, and finally the folks peripherally aware of you who might buy a release once in a while. Of course you need to figure out how to find people who don’t know about you at all, but you also need to reflect on how your releases target those three key groups.
With market segmentation in mind you also need to determine what makes a labels model effective. In many cases its about having a regular source of income, which here is represented by that core group of fans. I think it’s important to codify that core group of fans though by trying to get them to adhere to some sort of subscription service. Then the label starts to have the sort of business model that makes a lot more sense and which will be able to guide their music and work forward in a much more sustainable way. Furthermore – once you’ve been able to establish a certain continued income then it’s going to become a lot more interesting for people to buy in to what is going on here and work for a more sustainable and effective future. It’s by working through opportunities like thee that people start to become interested in a label. Remember that there is also marketing value in unique selling points, and something like this could very much be used for that.
By the same token I think that continuing to regularly expand the sorts of deals you have can be incredibly useful. For example – one thing I like to offer with record labels that I work with is a program that helps to clear out warehouse stock where large orders are rewarded with tons of free goods. Of course the free goods come from chunks of the back catalog that aren’t worth anything anymore. This way the label wins out by clearing storage space and the customer wins by getting extra stuff and maybe even will discover a new band they like, thus giving the artist a little more money to play with in the long run. These are all systems that can be fairly tricky to actualize but they are also ones that have been proven to work, it’s just that few people have the balls to really break out and try and do them.
Be aware too that many label marketing schemes can be shifted over to bands you just need to be a little creative. Yet if you start to look at how some of these larger models work and then bring them over you are going to find that there are some very unique ways to grow what you are doing on that front. None of this is easy, but if you start to use some of these accelerated systems for your label model and realize that with a tiered approach to creating income you are going to immeasurable increase the value of your company then it rapidly can become clear that you are turned on to something beautiful and far more powerful than any old school label could ever properly create.