– a Six Part Series 

by Jeff Price

Part III: How a Skewed Perspective Delegitimizes Artists

Read Past Chapters

Part I: Music Purchases and Net Revenue For Artists Are Up, Gross Revenue for Labels is Down

Part II: The Impact of DMCA Streams and Why They Should Be Considered 

Upcoming chapters:

Part IV: The Growth Phase is Over? Improved Label Margins

Part V: When Good Laws Turn Bad

Part VI: The Hills are Alive…..

Normally it’s not a big deal that someone has an opinion that you disagree with – you can agree to disagree and move on. However, the danger of this skewed and inaccurate portrayal is the de-legitimization of artists that are achieving success.  This restricts their opportunities and choices.  Sadly, the mainstream media reinforces this perspective.

Why should a Fortune 100 brand want to work with an “unsigned” artist that sells over 250,000 songs across five self released titles when it is told time and again by the “experts” and media that artists only “count” when they sell albums, not songs; that “real” artists are the ones signed to record labels; that artists not signed are in a lower “class” of “unsigned” or “indie” artists.  Why should a venue promoter, music supervisor, ad agency, TV network, radio station, retail store, publisher etc give an artist an opportunity or equal deal terms to a “signed” artist when they are told over and over and over by the “experts” and the media that what these artists accomplish does not count?  That these artists are somehow “sub-par” as compared to “signed” artists.

There should be parity between those that choose to get signed and those that self distribute.  Right now, this parity does not exist for a number of reasons:

  • The default “go to” resource for any business that wants to engage with music/artists is a traditional label. 
  • The place businesses go to learn who is most popular are the out of date, inaccurate and incorrectly presented Nielsen charts.
  • The laws created to protect copyright/trademark were built around a paradigm that has drastically shifted.

But what else can we expect when a sitting board member of the RIAA, A2IM and SoundExchange states in interviews that:

 “…80 percent of all records released are just noise. These “people” clutter the music environment with crap, so that the artists who really are pretty good have more trouble breaking through than they ever did before."

These same spokespeople that are the voice of the industry make a point of using only Soundscan tracked full album sales as an indicator of artist legitimization and success.  

In this perspective, for a release to be legitimate, it has to be a traditional “album”. EPs and singles are not “real” releases.  And if the “album” was self-released, forget it; it is by default just “noise”, sub-par and does not count.

Note also how these artists are declassified further and referred to as “people” as opposed to musicians.  Apparently, they have not earned the right to be called an “artist”.

Additionally, these same voices write articles for mainstream news blogs that give themselves "official" sounding titles like Chairman of Global Media and Entertainment Group  (and then name the company after themselves) stating music is in a “free fall”.  Unsigned artists are called ”undeveloped” and it is implied that that these “unsigned artists” are not selling, not generating revenue and have little talent. They paint a false picture of music sales and revenue by claiming digital sales are "flat".  They discredit paid streams and ignoring that less people are re-buying their music in a a new format (i.e. downloads) as "proof" that artists are not succeeding. They  further undermine musicians and state false and/or incomplete statistics claiming artists make no money and cannot gain fame or exposure via their craft.

Radio stations and TV, both on-line and terrestrial based, program radio shows carving out the “unsigned” or “up and coming” artists suggesting these “other” artists are in the minor leagues waiting to be discovered or legitimized by the industry “experts” as opposed to fans.

The word "indie", used by many bands as a badge of honor and indicator of self-empowerment is being turned into meaning something negative.  

What’s interesting is that 98% of what the major labels released failed.  Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on getting the music recorded, distributed and exposed and yet it did not sell.  How or why is a failed “major” artist any better or any worse than any other artist?  How or why is a successful “unsigned” artist any better or worse than a “major label” artist?

In today’s world, there is parity, they are all part of a group now called “artists”.

Part IV of this series will discuss: The Growth Phase is Over? Improved Label Margins


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