Has the Internet Killed the Record Label?

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Sierra Warren, Staff Writer

Record labels are now more obsolete than ever, and artists can now be more independent. They are taking promotion and distribution into their own hands. Before the age of the Internet, being distributed by a record label was the undisputed gold standard to having a successful music career. Then, the Internet allowed artists to connect more with their audience, putting even more power into the hands of music artists and out of some major labels. The changing times also let people stream music rather than buying it, which was also a cause of death for most labels.  

Artists can now be more independent. As of early 2019, only 12% of the music industry’s revenue comes from physical sales like CDs and records, while digital downloads and streaming makes up 86%. This becomes devastating to record labels because they make drastically less money off streaming than physical sales. CDs are now just a fragment of the industry’s revenue and record labels are struggling to stay afloat because their business model is centered on selling physical copies.  

If you are independent, you get 100% creative control and you get to keep 100% of the profits. Independent artists own the master rights to their music. They also have the freedom to negotiate music licensing and publishing deals without worrying about confusing contracts, expensive lawyers and signing over their music rights. Although there are benefits to being an independent artist there are cons: there are limited resources and budget, you have to make the connections, and you will have limited business experience. If you were to sign with a record label, you would get those resources and connections, but you lose ownership to your music and you get fewer profits.  

Music artists don’t need to distribute their music through a record label. They can do everything a label can do on their own and more with the different platforms to communicate with their audience. A good example for not needing a record label would be Chance the Rapper. He refuses to sign a record label because he doesn’t want the music industry to own him. He has put out music and had the opportunity to make music with other well-known artists like Cardi B, Lil Wayne, and Justin Bieber, and Chance was able to make those connections himself. In 2017, Chance won a Grammy award, making him the first streaming-only artist to win the award. He is also the first male rap solo artists to win Best New Artist.  You can be very successful in music without a record label; you just need to have a plan and not be afraid to make moves and get yourself noticed, whether it means a unique look or doing something crazy.

There are three options when talking about record labels: artists could sign one, not sign one, or make their own. The best option out of all of these would be to not sign one, but if artists really wanted to be put on a record label they should personally make one. That way, artists could actively participate in their career, have ownership of the master recordings, and give them more experience in the music business.