With the exploitation of the artist and creator at an all time high, major music recording labels are now scrambling to survive in an era of artistic independence.
Imagine the conversations between artists, executives, media and supporters. The overall premise usually boils down to record label necessity, money and exploitation of culture. With rap music now existing at the top of the food chain at the tender age of forty-four, we still have some growing up to do. In a rapidly changing industry, to survive, the artist must do the same. So much so that as the times have left the physical copy almost non existent, the digital blossoms. A “do it yourself” attitude by artists’ make it that much easier, and harder when uninformed, to win.
A recent music study reported by Citigroup caught the attention of several artists after confirming the thoughts of many. With a reportedly 43 billion dollar revenue in 2017, artists only took in a underwhelming 12%. Leaving most wondering who’s really getting paid?
Rarely ever hearing from the mouths of the executive, suggested “culture vulture” Lyor Cohen (Youtube’s Global Head of Music and co-founder of 300 entertainment) took to The Breakfast Club earlier this month answering the age old question. In an hour long tirade, Cohen alludes to the vulture-esq qualities of the actual business (i.e. we give you money and resource, you give us talent and ownership.) Often, this model of the business easily gets lost in a world where artists take on the sole role of genuine creator. Leaving them to do quick to no research on what matters most when looking to capitalize off of their prized heartfelt possession. Labels knowingly benefit from these flawed ways of thought by way of the executive skilled is nothing more than means of capitalization.
Information once being only accessible through minimal sources based on resource, the system of label for money and marketing thrived. As the age of info came full force, “culture vulture” status became attached to the “outsiders” while million dollar offers targeted talented or popular (and usually impoverished) youth to sign their lives away for a chance of stardom. Creating little to no option but to get out of the hood on a slave like scholarship.
Record companies have always held the key to a seemingly unlocked door. Only letting in those with beneficial value who never realized they had it. When given a miniscule piece of the huge publishing pie they baked, artist who understood their worth were no longer satisfied with their rations. Demanding the restructuring of deals, the industry inevitably began to crumble. As the game evolved and numerous causes effected revenue, labels shifted with the creation of the profitably one sided 360 deal. Minimal explanation necessary, this new contract made it safe for labels to maximize all profits while providing services to those who were super talented, but longed for the machine in an oversaturated environment. With a surge of new acts and talent coming in droves, the involuntary standard 360, once again established use of the creator with no perceived knowledge and or leverage to equal partnership.
Thoroughly hip to the blueprint laid out by artist such as Master P, Birdman, and Jay-Z, 2018, and the former years preceding, have educated the newer artists. Radio spins and album sales no longer have a necessity (except for those still in outdated major label contract (cue Nicki Minaj tweets). Artists have adopted their own means of free distribution through soundcloud / youtube releases building organic followings. Monetization becoming a reflex standard once streaming services became the new go to; independent / partnership deals have become sexier in thought and action. Exploiting the majors on defense, artists like Chance The Rapper, G Herbo and Young Dolph, have helped expose the non existing value of a major artist in the age of technology. Forcing the business to stay afloat, offering of partnerships is a means of a loaning service with reasonable APR.
The ball is now in the court of the artist and creator. Lucrative partnership offers through Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal have become a major labels’ nightmare. With less of a burden on the pockets of publishing, the added bonus of promotion, distribution and ownership (after a week exclusivity of course), design a future where the creator is in take back mode. Although, the major artists will always exist when “vultures” know exactly who to target. The ultimate win will lie in the hands of the educated artist who understands, “they need us more than we need them.”