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Bands Looking to the Crowd to Replace the Record Label

Whitey's Kickstarter campaign

The musical landscape has seen more changes over the past decade than ever before. First Napster forced the record labels to offer digital downloads at places such as Apple’s iTunes, and now more people than ever are streaming music through services such as Spotify rather than having any “ownership” at all.

It’s a confusing time for artists as major labels are signing ever fewer unproven new acts, and revenues from sales and streams do not add up to much for independent artists and bands that have not found their content going viral like Psy’s Gangnam Style which now has over a billion views on YouTube. If it is harder than ever to find support from record labels to produce a new album, then where should bands turn to finance their new works? The internet, and places such as Kickstarter.

One case in point is British “electrowave” artist Whitey who has released songs on various labels over the last decade, but has decided to finally free himself from their demands and controls, instead turning directly to his fans to finance the release of his next album through Kickstarter. Not only that, but the money raised will also allow him to finally make physical releases of all his previous back catalogue on both vinyl and CD as well as a new world tour.

The normal role of a record label is to take on some of the risk and expense of recording and releasing a record, as well as doing the promotion and distribution, in return for a good share of the proceeds from sales. There have been many, many cases over the years of artists being unfairly treated by their labels over how much they are actually paid for their work, but there are also plenty of cases of artists doing very well out of the deals – more recently artists and bands on indie labels especially.

By making use of services like Kickstarter, however, artists like Whitey are able to “feel out” the market for a new record and get people to pay for it upfront – essentially getting their fans to collectively commissioning them to create new works. The whole point of copyright and artists selling their music is to entice them to create new material, so business models like this are exactly how music should work, and more well known artists will likely start doing something similar in the very near future.

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