1.  Artist-run Labels will legitimise and become more commonplace

The concept of an artist-run label is not new and artists ranging from Ani DiFranco to the String Cheese Incident certainly created successful companies for themselves with this model.  However, with the ever-expanding modern digital era, one doesn’t need to maintain an in-house brick & mortar business or even a permanent staff.

Regardless, artist run-labels and artists in general DO need a team to be successful. It’s up to the artist’s advisors to assemble that team in a manner that ensures all involved are motivated about the artist/material and are being compensated in a sustainable manner for everyone’s benefit.

We are launching a comprehensive artist-run label in January and I’m blown away with the team that has come on board and was equally happy with our initial options in choosing the core team.  Wonderful companies like Nashville’s Thirty Tigers, Brooklyn’s Partisan Records, and New York labels Frenchkiss as well as Mom + Pop are now offering artists the option of  “label services” in which the artist and their advisors can hand-pick the team and services most suitable for each release. This allows the artist to maintain their rights and control their creative output and put together the most efficient and enthusiastic team possible.  It also allows the above companies to offer their team’s expertise, experience, resources and overall help in effectively promoting the artist and their music.  For both the artist and team it also cuts down on the excess fat in campaigns that might not be necessary or effective. This ideally creates a streamlined plan and passionate team in which money isn’t being wasted gratuitously and everyone is working together for the greater good and longevity of the artist and project.


2.  Artists like Alabama Shakes will become huge because they are just that good.

Alabama Shakes were certainly the talk of this year’s CMJ Music Marathon in New York. The industry is often abuzz with things we “should” like that never take off to a wider audience. But the reason that Alabama Shakes have exploded over the past two months is that they are just that good. Their music is pure and comes from a place that delves into the listener’s entire being. This results in people not just wanting to tell their friends but having a deep and visceral desire of NEEDING to tell everyone they know. Listening to the band’s self-released 4-song EP on Bandcamp is a great reminder of why we all work in music: because we love it.

So how will Alabama Shakes stay sane and pure in our chaotic society? I’m happy to say that have a wonderful and forward-thinking, yet experienced core team guiding their ascension (Christine Stauder/Kevin Morris of Red Light, Matt Hickey of High Road Touring & Angus Baskerville of 13 Artists). As a music fan, I am so excited to watch and listen to this young band evolve.


3.  Demand will drive supply and dictate market prices from vinyl to streaming

The concept of supply and demand has been around since the days of John Locke. But with the advent of artist-run labels and custom tailored strategies, as opposed to one-size-fits all album releases, campaigns in each territory can be tailored to what that country wants. Although vinyl sales are up, digital rules the US with various indie labels telling me 80% of their sales are digital. This is not the case in the UK, where a deal I just put together is based on that market’s demand for physical CDs and vinyl. And in countries like Spain, I have artists who are quite popular but music sales across the board are low so we instead focus on a comprehensive live strategy for our artists with fans in Spain.

I believe in releasing music in all formats that are available that people want.  And luckily for the fans, no matter where they live, ideally they can consume music from an artist’s website via whatever format they desire.

Meanwhile, while the industry quibbles over how much artists are getting per stream on services like Spotify and Rdio, I’m rediscovering albums I love that are buried somewhere within my 1 TB external hard drive. As I sit here and listen to an Ian Brown record on Spotify that I haven’t heard since 2005, I am much more likely generate revenue for Ian’s camp by going to see him play these songs I’d forgotten about live; whether there’s a Stone Roses tour or not. So while we continue to argue about pennies on streaming services and whether CD’s are dead and vinyl rules; as always our customers who come in the form of music fans will actually dictate the prices of music formats. This is in contrast to the pre-digital era, when distributors and labels set price points.


4.  Artists like Sydney Wayser will move forward & persevere instead of sitting around and waiting.

Young French-American Sydney Wayser has never been one who likes waiting. And what artist does? Instead of hoping that someone magical will swoop in and fund the recording of her new songs, her need to create art resulted in Sydney getting together with some of her favorite musicians and creating her stunning new album, Bell Choir Coast.  I received the master a few weeks ago and even though the record won’t be out until 2012, the album campaign began as soon as the final audio files hit my inbox. Like most artists, Sydney’s dream is to be on one of her favorite indie labels alongside rosters of artists she grew up listening to. Because Sydney is an artist in a new era, those labels aren’t always on the hunt for new signings as they’re often struggling to re-organise their business model to accommodate the declines from their traditional revenue streams. In the meantime, Paste Magazine premiered one of Sydney’s new songs, Los Angeles’ influential KCRW radio is giving the record unsolicited airplay, and her fanbase is growing every day.

Will her “dream” label hop on board at some point? Possibly. But if not, every day Sydney lands a new piece of press, gets a new spin on the radio, finds new fans and is creating a career that will be sustainable beyond her album cycle with the larger goal of being a successful professional musician for the rest of her life.


5.  Industries Beyond Music Will Follow Our Lead

Music was a no-brainer to lead the digital revolution. Everyone loves it and in MP3 format, file sizes are small and easily transferred.

I applaud the television and sports industries for getting on board with streaming services such as Hulu and creating Major League Baseball packages for online consumption. Due to this, I haven’t owned a television since I was in University and consume all media through the internet. It’s great that I can stream The Daily Show via ComedyCentral.com every day or a plethora options via Netflix‘s streaming platform.

Even with all of these great options to disseminate content, New York comedian Louis C.K. broke new ground last week by offering his latest stand-up film exclusively through his website for $5 USD.

Louis summed up his intentions to go the direct-to-fan route via a chat with Reddit this week:

“The other thing is I can only do this because I’m an individual and I can decide what my risks are that are acceptable and i can make my own goals for what is success. So I forwent (is that a word?) a lot of conventional routes and tried this. I am risking and there may be a ceiling to the success, but for me it’s okay. I feel like as of this year, I make enough money as a standup my goal now is to bring the cost down for those who buy my stuff. I really mean that. It makes me much happier. Also I did see that there might be a tremendous upswing to this. I was really excited about this material and I though it would be really cool to just put it out there myself with a little electronic hat that only takes fives and just see what happens.”

Although Louis and his team have not released specific results it seems as though this launch was a hit with the fans and successful for Louis both creatively and financially.

Fan @BobBaffy on Twitter asked Louis: “So… Has this been successful enough that you’d consider doing it again?

Louis’ response? “We’ll see. Still counting the 5 dollar bills on the floor.”

Louis also Tweeted his audience: “I want to thank the living f**k out of everyone who is buying the special. http://www.louisck.com.”


I couldn’t agree more.

Happy New Year! 🙂



About Author

Emily White

Artist manager Emily White is partner at Whitesmith Entertainment and co-founder of Dreamfuel. She also serves on the boards of CASH Music & Future of Music Coalition. She is a frequent contributor to midemblog and Midem speaker and moderator.

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