The Old Model is still the Best Model

In music circles, I’m known as a technology guy. In technology circles, I’m known as a music guy. I’ve always found it funny that neither circle wants to claim me. Regardless of what circle I find myself in, I’m always asked what I think about the changes that music business has experienced with the emergence of P2P and social media over the past decade. When I answer, “I think the old model is still the best model”, people usually look at me cross-eyed.

Hipsters expect me to unfold a well-thought manifesto of anti-institutionalism, praise the democratization of music, and express disdain over the greed of traditional music companies. They expect me to interpret the criminal acts of the MP3 emancipators of recent years as progress or evolution.

Music executives expect me to predict the impending death of the four major labels, the commoditization of recorded product, and treat them like they are the cancer that is destroying music. They expect me to not give them any credit for the magnetic field they’ve created which draws amazingly entertaining people out of the obscure corners of the world.

Before we move forward, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. I believe the responsibility of a record label is to leverage the relationships and capital it’s acquired through decades of work with other artists to:• None Provide creative guidance and an atmosphere for the creative process to thrive

You’ll notice that I didn’t identify methods, I only identified responsibilities. I didn’t mention the methods which were successful in past decades: large recording budgets, cash advances, retail distribution, radio airplay, or magazine covers.

The past several generations of music executives have confused method and responsibility. They have become focused on tactics instead of strategy. Many would say that the industry stopped being creative. I think that’s just a diplomatic way of avoiding the accusation that those of us in music business have stopped using our intellects.

I don’t think we are stupid, I think we have stopped evolving quickly enough to survive.

If we can agree that our responsibility to the artist has remained the same but the methods by which we achieve desirable results has changed, our road to recovery will become more clear. If not, we might as well pack our bags.

So what must we do in order to keep the model we have now alive before fall-out becomes so extreme that we have to abandon everything and start over?

What must record labels acknowledge and change?

  • None You have no fundamental right to survive.
  • None Structure the business of making albums like corporations.
  •  None Make hard decisions. Focusing on new methods of promotion require you to fire people who can’t evolve, hire new people who think differently, modify your corporate culture, dispose of the idea of discretionary capital, and focus on investments where returns can be measured.
  •  None Create more value than what the artist delivers.

What must record labels acknowledge and accept?

  • None You have no fundamental right to survive.
  • None It takes perspective, experience, analytical thinking, and money to create a successful business around your music, none of which you have.
  • None Music is a bad investment. If it weren’t banks would be in the music business. Don’t blame music organizations for imposing crazy terms in their contracts. They are loan-sharks. Don’t blame the shark if you want to swim in their waters.
  • None Technology that works for independent acts isn’t a replacement for a record label. There are too many channels of distribution for you to do it yourself and still do what you do best. However, you still must make sure that the record label you sign with has disposed of old methods and have the right people working for them.
  • None Your fans have been stealing from you and the 360° Deal is likely the only immediate fix.

I’ll admit that I’m not bullish on the probability that most record labels will adapt quickly enough to avoid failure. However, I am confident that every one of us can begin to consider these principles as we observe the day-to-day decisions at the companies with whom we work.


Author: Raymond

Raymond Dickerson is a graduate of Arts and Culture from the University of the Philippines. She is also a contributor in and she has been deeply passionate towards arts, music and other forms of entertainment.