Our goal is to explore and highlight issues relating to music on the Internet, and how this is affecting musicians and people involved in the music industry. We tracked down Paul Fernandes, an indie label owner, and asked him: “What’s it like to be an independent record label today?”
Paul: Having free reign to record, release and promote the music you love in any age is nothing less than an absolute joy, always has been, always will be. In our fast changing world as an independent label, we’re constantly faced with new opportunities and challenges that affect the way we survive as a profitable business and, after all, we can only continue to exist by having a sustainable business model.
Broken Sound is less than 2 years old and still very much in its infancy, therefore we only have received wisdom to give us an insight into what the industry was like prior to the digital revolution. Higher profits, fewer and clearer routes to market and far more obvious marketing and promotion options seem to be the general consensus of the world that was. Given that, we do wonder whether such an environment was particularly favourable to the less adaptable multi-nationals, and that we, and others like us, have now been given a chance to shine in this post-revolution world.
Like in every business, our focus is on making the most of the opportunities that arise while doing our best to avoid any threat to our artists’ repertoire: the internet is teeming with both. On the one hand we have a bottomless pit of low-cost ways to promote our artists’ work: video virals, tastemaker blogs and/or free taster-tracks to name but a few. On the other hand, we’ve been in the heart-breaking position of seeing our music available as free illegal downloads, sometimes a month or two prior to release, which can be a real kick in the teeth, especially when we’ve already made every effort to provide the online community with high-quality exclusive free content.
The ‘answer’ to all our problems is yet to be found, but it’s interesting to see new, innovative business models popping up. If only the industry of the late 90s had embraced the idea of a legal digital market, rather than fighting to criminalise it, perhaps piracy wouldn’t have become the problem it has; maybe music wouldn’t have been devalued to (what we hope isn’t) the point of no return.
Streaming services like Spotify, marketed as the ‘legal alternative’ to digital piracy, work superbly as a promotional tool, but that’s about it for us. They don’t work as an alternative to purchasing digital or physical music. Offering small amounts of free content to such services for people to stream at parties or share in playlists or suchlike is essential in spreading the awareness of the artist, however, we remain dubious about uploading full releases. Not only is the financial reward incredibly low (currently around 5,000 streams equates to just one CD sale) but we feel it contributes greatly to the devaluation of the artist and label’s product and we definitely highly value the music we release. Once free music provided in such an accessible way becomes the norm for fans, there will be no going back. What might work for a major label, doesn’t necessarily translate to an independent.
How each label plays the game, whether online or otherwise, is a decision based on what they feel works best for them and their artists. We’ll always stand by this and, luckily for us, we remain adaptable and open-minded, traits that may have once upon a time been deemed to be worthless. Now this philosophy allows us (just two friends with a mutual love for great music) to make our fair share of noise amongst all the other labels on this increasingly leveled playing field.
Broken Sound Music.
About the author
Paul Fernandes and Chris Lucraft started Broken Sound Music in the summer of 2008. The label was born out of a shared passion for the finer things in music and the desire to help launch the careers of some of the most talented underground artists around. Since then, the label has been proud to release two stunning Peggy Sue EPs, had a Rough Trade Top 10 Album of 2009 with Forest Fire’s ‘Survival’ and held a global arts project and exhibition for Rachael Dadd. The label has produced exclusive live session podcasts and staged live events.
For more information, go to www.brokensoundmusic.comTweet