The State of the Music Industry pt. III

The State of the Music Industry pt. III

By now most of you seem to have read the two previous (2.1k likes on that post…!) guest posts that I’ve published about the bass music industry.

Today’s third (and probably final) article on the topic is from Slice, head honcho over at Inna Riddim; a digital label who are currently looking to sort physical distribution deals. In my opinion, Slice’s post is near enough the perfect end to the discussion…

Respect to Lawrence for opening up a can of worms point of discussion around this worthy topic, despite the article’s overwhelming title. It’s a conversation I’m personally invested in and feel that what’s missing is the perspective of a “legacy label” (to use Lawrence’s terminology), that’s trying to establish itself amongst the cacophony – as there’s a lot more than meets the eye than just what the consumer sees.

Both contributors so far have provided a historical frame of reference which I believe is ultimately what this topic is hinged upon: times have changed!

Stretching back to the roots of the music we love, when rave culture exploded into existence in defiance of the iron rule of Thatcherism in the late 80s, whether consciously or not we’re continuing the traditions and foundations laid before us by our generation past (now in their 40s). Many won’t draw that parallel as at the core of our devotion to music is an expression of feeling rather than thought, also most of us (I always wished I was born a decade earlier) never lived this epoch. However, societal parallels are undeniable and I propose that this is at the core of our current state of affairs.

Whence the origins of rave was an anti-movement against the greed and individualism of capitalism, a culture of coming together (peace, love and unity!), reflectively the internet has provided us with a replica paradigm of “collective individuality”. We’re splintered all over the world yet unified by the internet and our ability to share ideas and content. How this has changed the playing field is quite self-evident and rightfully taken for granted (and exploited) by today’s generation.

Back in the early 90s, entire renegade industries were borne from the rave movement; similarly to how current IT, social media or search industries were spawned from the cyber revolution. As a result, music lovers are now connected world-wide with communication being reduced to the click of a mouse. One common thread that has remained is the D.I.Y. attitude that the rave scene brought with it – except instead of D.I.Y. physical, it’s now D.I.Y. digital.

Pointing the finger and pushing the blame on labels for saturating the scene with crap music is ridiculous when taking into consideration the bedroom home studio set-up and the ease of which anyone can write music nowadays. And that’s without even acknowledging the devaluing effects of widespread piracy and theft of music – a practise taken for granted (but one that largely prevents any revenue models from surviving). One look at the struggling grip of major record labels on the music industry and their inability to adapt with the times is enough to exemplify this. I received an email not long ago stating “I don’t like to pay for mp3s but for vinyl it’s the complete opposite”. There’s a perceived lack of value when there’s no physicality; if you could steal a car you would.

Ultimately nothing much has changed in the music industry: nepotism and favouritism are still rife from the mainstream to the underground. We’re currently trying to organise vinyl distribution for a select number of key releases on top of our current digital output, however what we’ve found is that if you’re not putting out buying out established names the guys at the top don’t want to know.

I’m a vinyl purist at heart – having taken part in the heyday of Jungle Drum & Bass in the late 90s. My quarterly student loan payments were chewed up by regular purchases at the local record store, so putting out vinyl is another step in making my dreams come true.

There’s no financial motivation behind any of my musical endeavours; it’s pure passion.

If there are some labels out there doing a sh!t job they simply won’t survive and will be weaned out with time. The problem of too many labels is not a problem for the consumer, but more one for young labels as they battle it out amongst each other for a piece of the pie that is already next-to-nonexistent. In a cluttered environment even a quality record label will struggle to make an impact.

The positive is that the rulebook is constantly rewritten by the audacious, pioneering new methods and means to reach that tipping point that puts you above the rest. And so it’s the D.I.Y. attitude our scene has come to be known for that should be lauded, not denigrated. Back in the day artists would drive around the country selling white labels out the boot of their car. Distribution deals could be done just by having a presence, because the infrastructure existed to support physicality, and built around a grassroots community instead of moderated, managed and controlled by evil corporations major record labels.

The internet has become our local record store – it’s where we now rally at, find out all the info, network with other like-minded people and sweet-talk/ befriend the owner to pull out the promos from under the counter.

My point is the digital landscape is our new bastion.

Yes there is a certain amount of separating the wheat from the chaff, but the blessing is that we do have the choice. Times have changed and with it consumption of music has evolved from the golden days of tape packs, pirate radio, vinyl and record stores to YouTube clips, digital radio, MP3s and torrent sites. One crucial thing to remember is how dubstep was propagated by the internet; its low-end frequencies echoing around the world. A tsunami that never quite carried to the same extent the Jungle Drum & Bass music that I grew up on. We’re all now more connected than ever, and it’s clearly influenced music consumption and in turn its proliferation.

We have an infrastructure to exploit different to any that existed before, and even though it’s shortened our attention span to 140 characters, 1-2mins clips and has flooded our inboxes with sh!te, it’s opened up new doors.

Basically, the internet.

If you agree (or don’t) with Slice’s response to Lawrence’s article, let us know in the comments – or give him a shout on Twitter.  To follow Inna Riddim’s story, follow them on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud or hit up their website.

I think we’ve had a pretty decent run of articles on the topic – so I’m tempted to put it to bed. If you’ve got any thoughts to add, leave them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.

Peace, love and respect.