If I Ran a Major Record Label…

Major Label Logos

I was recently asked by my friends over at Coffee Shop Magazine how I would go about running a major label.  I thought it was a great question.  Considering the fact that I’m always bombing on the majors, I figure it’s time for me to outline the steps I would take if I were in control!  (Fat chance of that!)

1. Fans come first. The label would stay focused on what was important to the music fans, and give them what they want. They’re the ones who are financially supporting the label and it’s artists, so they are the most important people in the equation. I would institute open feedback policies, and with the money I’d save by firing all these worthless execs and A&R people, I’d hire extra customer service people to focus on the needs of the customer.

2. I would hire artist managers as staff to work directly for the label. They wouldn’t be called artist managers, they’d be called artist development, and they’d be compensated the same way they are now. 7.5-15% of that artist’s profits. No artist would be allowed to bring in outside managers, because that would conflict with the goals of the label. Again, if an artist didn’t agree with this, they could sign elsewhere. There are too many untalented unsigned artists out there to waste time, energy and money on those who don’t want to play ball.  And moving into 360 deals would mean that the label has a stake in all aspects of an artists career anyway.  So why should the artist pay someone 15% of their income to do what the label should be doing.  (I know I’ll be hearing from artist managers on this one, but I honestly feel that artists would be better served hiring entertainment lawyers than managers.)

3. A&R people would be a thing of the past. Do the major labels really need all of these A&Rs running around trying to look self-important, drawing huge salaries, and racking up huge budgets for nothing? No. you can just as easily find artists to sign in places like MySpace and ReverbNation nowadays. The A&Rs would be among the first to go. They’d be replaced with artist development people (see number 2).

4. I would change the compensation scale for all executives. No more drawing huge salaries for nothing. I would compensate all executives the same way that Steve Jobs (Apple) gets compensated. He only gets ONE DOLLAR A YEAR IN SALARY. The rest of his millions come from profit-sharing, bonuses and incentives. No free rides. If the executives want to get rich, they have to work to make sure the label is successful.

5. I would focus promotion and marketing efforts equally on all artists on the roster. Most artists at major labels fail commercially because the labels don’t support them. Major labels currently survive off of the commercial success of 5% of their artists. They lose money on the rest. That’s ridiculous. Every artist would get equal marketing and promotion support.

6. I would move all artists to 360 deals. Meaning the label would get 70% of music sales, and 30% of everything else (merchandise, live shows, licensing, etc). That would make the artists true partners, and they would have to work to make sure their projects were successful. Again, no more free rides. Any artist that doesn’t want to work to ensure his or her own success, I wouldn’t want them signed to my label anyway. On the other hand, I wouldn’t make the artist recoup the label’s expenses (marketing, promotion, etc). The label would absorb those costs as part of the cost of doing business. The only thing the artists would have to recoup would be their advances. Legally speaking, I know this would be a headache, but that’s what these major label lawyers are for. I definitely wouldn’t be paying them to sue old ladies for downloading tracks.


1 Response to “If I Ran a Major Record Label…”

  1. July 13, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Nice post. This sums up how most independents operate.
    The majors are more about business than music.

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