Friday, June 27, 2008

Do Labels Still Matter? Chicago Musicians Speak Out

There's a great article in the Tribune today that suggests the declining importance of record label contracts in musicians making a living from their passion. The article includes interviews with Chicago acts The Living Blue, Bailiff and Deanna Devore, who, while not disregarding the influence of labels altogether, seem to think the real power has shifted into the hands of the artists themselves.

"'There are a lot of good unsigned artists and a lot of bad signed ones,'" states Devore in the article. "'I still would like to [sign with a label] someday, but it's definitely not as necessary as maybe it used to be.'"

How to manage this DIY power for the greatest benefit, though, remains unclear.

I know many talented, driven indie musicians who are struggling to find a significant audience, and it's not always clear exactly why. Is it a lack of money or time for self-promotion? Not having the experience or skills to find the right resources?

As far as I can tell, in the age of self-recording, self-releasing and self-promoting, there's still no surefire way to develop an audience. Talent included. Even the effectiveness of MySpace is unclear. How many times do you actually take the time to listen to bands that send you a random request, or even click on their pages?

Chicago musicians - how have you leveraged DIY methods for promotion? What works? What doesn't?


  1. The new abilities to promote and produce digitally are a double edged sword. As the article notes, yes, you can do so much more, but that also comes with a certain anonymity. If everyone with minimal gear and an MacBook can now produce a studio quality CD and market it themselves, how does an artist set themselves apart? MySpace seem to be of limited help, it's mostly musicians posting ads on each other's pages.

    In the end, the ability to make your music universally available is not enough. Probably 99.99% of the public does not actively seek out new music online or otherwise. So reaching those people requires some kind of marketing. The difficulties I've encountered with an artist I help promote is a combination of resources (actual adverstising is expensive) and the fact that it isn't clear what are the most effective channels.

    Sites like and seem to be more useful, with a higher number of actual listeners and bloggers willing to write about what they hear.

  2. Very cool to see The Living Blue and Bailiff in your blog. Have you seen Bailiff perform?