This is the end, my friend

People are asking why I’m not doing Elephant Stone anymore — yup, I tell them it is done and they suddenly act like it mattered to them. Well besides that none of our bands toured and made excuses not to tour only after the releases came out (and 3 dates ain’t a tour people!), I pretty much have been saying what Alan McGee is saying below. Labels are not needed anymore. Maybe they will be again someday in some weird mutated form as more just for promotion and licensing for film/tv, but other than that? Product sales are dick these days.

A ban on music magazines has been put into effect in our house as well — which is funny considering Mr. still writes for a few — but mostly as I’ve said before they either lie or just copy other reviews. With the slight exception of Skyscraper and Kapital Ink, they all cover the same 30 bands over and over anyways so it isn’t like I’m missing much. On the one hand the majors deserved what they are getting, but on the other it does hurt independent labels just as much in the grand scheme of things.

But oh, I forgot, I’m corporate shill who goes through third party corporate evil-poopy-bad distribution instead of being an oh-so noble amatuer. Excuse me that I actually wanted to make a living instead of treating the whole enterprise as a hobby. Meh. That’s all I can say is “meh”.

FROM FRIDAYS INDEPENDENT:

With a little money, the internet and some live gigs, new acts can be successful – without the big record companies. In fact, it’s the end of the road for the majors, says Alan McGee.

The last 10 years have seen big changes in the music industry that have turned it on its head. Throughout the Eighties there were 12 major labels and between 20 and 30 reputable indies that you’d consider using. The switch to digital has meant that now, as soon as a record goes to promo, it’s on the internet for anyone to take six weeks before its official release.

So now there are just three surviving major labels, all of which are going to have to stop kidding themselves that they will develop into multimedia entertainment companies that can manage bands and share in live income. This could happen in as little as two years’ time. The accountants at these big labels are eventually going to work out that they need to stop spending millions on signing new bands, and drop all but the biggest acts. It isn’t easy to get a superstar and labels are trying to get lucky with new bands, when the reality is that it can be a total lottery. When they do work out that the new band business isn’t for them, they will sack 90 per cent of their staff, make a fortune from being back-catalogue suppliers and, having made huge profits, make the shareholders happy by selling for billions.

A shift like this is going to leave more and more power with the bands, alongside the developing multimedia operators. There are bands now who are selling out big venues and having chart success on a level that they would no where near have been able to achieve a decade ago – all without the help of majors, and often with no label at all. With the losses in CD sales through burning, playing live is more important than ever and it’s possible to make a decent income doing this.

The great thing is that you can’t replicate a live show – which is good for the fans, artists and managers – and you can make a lot of money. The majors know this and are trying to get in on bands’ live incomes. But why should an established band with the popularity of Radiohead or Oasis give a label 50 per cent of their income? Why even give them 1 per cent? These are already massive live bands. Now, when three million sales is what classifies a hit – compared with the 20 million that Alanis Morissette and Oasis would sell 10 years ago – it’s inevitable the power is going to lie with bands promoting themselves. I believe a great deal in MySpace’s power – we’ve seen Koopa and Enter Shikari break this year through creating fanbases on the website – and the number of people it gives you access to without spending anything on marketing. It’s about owning your own copyright, and maintaining it, which is where bands like The Sessions are getting ahead.

The story of how I met The Sessions is simple and, not surprisingly, it was online, through MySpace, after the front man, Taz Allie, messaged me. They caught my attention the first time I saw them and I couldn’t believe that they weren’t doing more, in terms of playing live and promoting themselves.

I started to put them on more and more at my London clubs, Death Disco, The Queen is Dead and Now We’re Off To Rehab. It was through my clubs that I became mates with them and now I DJ with Taz, too. That’s when the labels came knocking, offering them all these record deals.

It wasn’t long before I told them that they could do all these supposedly great things being offered to them themselves. When Taz worked out what he could do with a bank loan, I offered to advise him. I’m not their manager but once I got talking to Taz, he was so genuine and sincere I offered to help as a friend.

You have to respect them for taking out a loan and putting their balls on the line. They deserve every bit of good press they get. They’re all ordinary guys – the drummer is a window cleaner – and I like them because their expectation of the music business is zero. They have been on the go for three or four years, but I think that because they aren’t an obvious band they fell on deaf ears for a while and no one seemed to care. Since they have started playing at my clubs they’re becoming increasingly popular.

In terms of what’s happened with their single, “What Is This Feeling?”, I offered to try to get it into a couple of films in order to pay for it, as synchs are a good way to make money. They then took out the loan, made the video for a grand and went about pressing 500 singles, and it’s barely costing them anything. Following that, Cherrystones came in to remix the track as a favour and the end result is world class.

The Sessions’ version is great, being influenced by The Charlatans, Primal Scream, Happy Mondays (and they remind me of Curtis Mayfield doing Sweet Exorcist in 1974), but how Cherrystones have reworked it with Taz’s song writing is amazing. The media are going to be all over it. So with no major, and some balls, The Sessions are going to show everyone how it’s done.

As sources of new talent, the majors are still delusional about the future. Due to the high risk involved in breaking a new band, they have become more conservative and, because they haven’t embraced the technology that’s changed the business as much as the bands have, they are being shut out.

The only thing a major has over an independent is money. Nowadays, creating a dedicated fanbase is what is most important for bands, and they do this by playing live and getting an online following. I book new acts for my clubs through MySpace because it’s a good way to get in contact with thousands of bands.

When major labels start promoting a new act they are short-sighted; they want immediate hits. This is what is destroying them, that and the fact that they never loved music enough.

I am running down my label, Poptones, as I don’t believe in owning a record company any more – bands should own their own copyrights.Looking to the future, as the majors decline, more bands will recognise that it’s the real music-lovers who will help them succeed – the management, the live agents and the sponsors.

The majors should have paid more attention to what was happening in the music industry and sorted out their business model. They didn’t, and now it is killing them.

And from the Fox News website:

The Real Story of Warner Music

Warner Music, if you don’t know, was once run by people like Mo Ostin, Lenny Waronker and Tommy Lipuma. They produced everyone from the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne to James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat, Joni Mitchell, George Benson and so on.

It was a staggering achievement. And that doesn’t even include divisions like Atlantic Records or Elektra Records.

Got the picture?

In the two years since Edgar Bronfman Jr. bought the company from Time Warner, Warner Music has been destroyed. It’s gone. There’s nothing there.

This week, they announced they were firing 400 people, 70 of whom were said to be from the WEA sales force. In the last quarter, WMG says it lost $27 million, compared to $7 million in the same quarter last year. Mind you, three months ago they announced a 75 percent drop in profits.

In the last year, WMG literally had two hits: James Blunt and Gnarls Barkley. That’s it. Two. Otherwise, the Bronfman group has added nothing to the company. They have depended on Linkin Park, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, Green Day and the Red Hot Chili Peppers — all acts they inherited from the old Warner Music — to get them through.

It’s very sad. This week they also announced that instead of developing artists, making hits happen or pretending to be a music company, WMG has hired two guys to make videos. They called them Den of Thieves.

They also hired a guy from JetBlue airlines to maximize the Warner catalog online. While Sony BMG and Universal at least try to release new acts, market them, sell them, get them played on the radio, WMG is giving up.

I’m not surprised, but I feel sorry for the WEA guys who lost their jobs. That’s not just 70 people but 70 families.

Last fall, at the WEA sales meeting in Phoenix, the sales force was all ginned up to hear that Warner subsidiary Rhino was releasing a new album by Art Garfunkel, produced by Richard Perry. Garfunkel sang live for them, including “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

But when the album was released in January, nothing happened — it died at birth. No one knows it was even issued.

When Garfunkel performed at Lincoln Center in April, no one from the company even showed up. Actress Scarlett Johansson, who signed a contract with them to record an album of Tom Waits covers, should take heed.

Also last summer: The head of Rhino UK, a man named Nick Stewart, was touting an R&B singer named Keisha White. She was his big thing and the only artist he was interested in.

That was July. On the day her single was supposed to be released two months later, White was dropped without notice from the label. She should have been a hit, but Stewart had lost interest.

Warner Music is full of these stories. They are perplexing. They put millions into Sean Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment, then totally blew the release of his “Press Play” album last fall. It sank without a trace.

Despite Lyor Cohen and his crowd coming to WMG from Island/DefJam, there’s been a nary a hip-hop hit at Warner. And last year, they did manage to do nothing at all for Paul Simon’s “Surprise” album. They couldn’t even get it a Grammy nomination.

This is surprising in every way. Cohen is a music man. The industry keeps waiting for him to do something huge, introduce a great new artist and break a mega-selling album.

We hear every day that downloading has ruined the music business. I say that is ridiculous. Laziness and greed have destroyed the industry from within. Warner Music has been turned into a venture capital pawn. It doesn’t matter if they don’t release anything, they will just lay off 400 people to show a profit. The people don’t matter and neither does the music.

Here’s a suggestion: Why not just give up and change the name to Warner Management Group or Warner Miscellaneous Group? Because the music is dead there, and so is the hallowed legacy.

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