Welcome to the weekly article looking at the current music industry, its challenges and overall why and how SHOUT4's RevShare model works so well for the independent music industry. Written by SHOUT4 Chairman, Ric Yerbury.
I have been asked a few times recently whether I think that the major record labels are the devil incarnate or worse?! “Certainly not,” has been my reply. Some incredible achievements from some incredible and influential champions of music have been delivered over the decades. The relationship with the artists who made their success possible has of course been sometimes a rocky one with the legacy of agreements signed early in their career reflecting an inequitable outcome, delays on release of material or worse still, eventually cancelled. Nevertheless I thought it worth taking time to say ‘thank you for the music’ to all those who have contributed to a massive catalogue of amazing music which remains the fabric of many of our lives.
It’s also an excuse to trot out a few of my favourites and hopefully to stimulate some from others. In fact, let’s drop in a favourite track or moment at the end of these articles. I know sometimes I have been banging on about retaining rights or the relative merits of blockchain and probably it all feels too much. We do well to remember that any argument about where rights should be held, how they should be exploited and all parties rewarded is meaningless without the actual music itself.
There is the question as to whether the approach and general mindset in the industry properly reflects where we are now, both in terms of the consumption of music and expectation of the relationships artists have within their own communities. In other words thank you for the music chaps but actually we have all moved on, so can you please do so too?
The route for any artist in developing their craft remains as perilous as ever. The likelihood is that most will not achieve any sustainable career. It is also very brutal as they can immediately measure the success of their latest release or post in terms of streams, likes and shares. Marketing in whatever form is most relevant and is not only essential but actually is the primary service a label can provide. I am not doing down the influence of some of the exceptional A&R executives in shaping a great record. They are an important member of the team.
So if the major labels are not the devil, then what are they or in a slight distortion of the great Edwin Starr question of my early years, labels uh huh yeah what are they good for? (Ed you can’t put in the bit about absolutely nothing). To be fair – marketing is the answer. Clout, power to beat up the DSPs and get the music heard. All of which needs cash as well as the infrastructure to make a difference. Over the years we have seen some incredible campaigns to promote artists. So maybe we are in the era of labels being service companies not rights holders?
Currently listening to the wonderful voice of Bill Withers and “Ain’t No Sunshine” which is such an iconic record. I tracked my way back to him after soaking up the great work of Michael Kiwanuka again. “Cold Little Heart” is a fabulous track. Its popularity has been driven through the music sync for the hit TV show Big Little Lies. So thank you to all the team there for that music.
I guess you’ve worked out where this is heading. First of all, artists thank you for your music, your talent and your resilience without which we have nothing! Record labels, majors in particular, your role is still immense but can we please look at support coming in the form of services rather than rights ownership? Think about RevShare not ownership in return for the excellent services you provide. Artists, be generous in rewarding those that help but keep control of rights and budgets.
So, back to the music which is my excuse to reflect on being a lover of this wonderful world that has dominated my life over 60 odd years. First started playing the piano when I was 4, making my first record when I was 10, fronting a band cleverly called ‘The Insects’ and destroying “House of The Rising Sun”. Much to ponder there. Anyway thanks again for all the music. It seems appropriate to kick off my track selection with some people we used to play with around Bath when they were called ‘Neon’ who turned into ‘Tears For Fears’. “Mad World” feels like the right track at the moment!
Until next time when we consider ‘Where’s my split?’
Ric has a background in music as an artist, manager, label owner and promoter. He has combined this with a career away from music as CEO within SMEs and PLCs. As the architect of SHOUT4's Revshare model he is a strong advocate for artists retaining rights and providing legal and financial solutions to the DIY market which reflect the way the world is now and not the past.