Originally Posted by Deltadrummer
Interesting discussion. One of the things I've wondered about is how the majors are marketing music these days. ... You do see these bands like The Arcade Fire who seem to come out of nowhere and are suddenly selling out major venues. I was wondering how that happens. Is that all internet and underground driven?
FWIW, The Arcade Fire has been hitting the road since 2002, and not playing very major venues until fairly recently. They've cultivated a following through sheer perserverance, and their wider internet exposure came after they were already on track. I agree that they've done well, but I wouldn't say they came out of nowhere, or that they got an initial push from being online.
As for labels handling marketing, the web has simply become an additional avenue for them, just as it has for TV and movie productions, authors, and anybody selling anything. It's nice that we all have a place to chat, and that bands can put up a site and hope people will stop by, but in the bigger picture, the net has been extremely commercial for quite a while, and labels have been exploiting that as they would a print ad, or a tv/radio appearance for an artist they're promoting. The net hasn't taken away or really replaced anything yet, it's just another method to reach potential music buyers.
The advantages of online marketing (compared to print or radio or tv) are many: the immediacy and dynamics of being able to create, upload and modify ads/music/video... the cost relative to print or radio... the ability to provide video on demand (including podcasts)... contests and other interactivities... email blasts...
And like any advertising, demographics are important. A label may promote a particular artist on MySpace more heavily than buying banner ads for them on Amazon.com, and vice versa for another artist.
The marketing isn't really an issue though, and piracy has actually taken a backseat to the larger concern: consumers have been increasingly buying their music one track at a time (thanks to iTunes, WalMart, etc etc.) That's why 'album' sales are down - because people are buying the 'singles' they want. And as a consumer of thousands of CDs that contained one or two songs I actually wanted to hear, I can't say that's totally bad. Be that as it may, that's the real problem for the labels. They haven't been replaced by entrepenuerial bands on the net, they've simply been selling less as a result of the different marketing technique. And that's why they're in trouble... not because independent (or formerly established) artists have found it advantageous to promote themselves online.
However, the fact that artists can
promote themselves online and sell their music one song at a time - just like the majors - means that even that money doesn't contribute to the labels' dwindling profits, adding to the slippery slope already in progress.
I think that labels will continue to exist, but because the dynamic of what's being purchased is changing so radically, they're going to have to accept that their glory days are fading, and they'll just have to settle into a new business model. It's somewhat scary for them that an artists can literally record and mix their new song, and have it on their site moments after completion. There's no manufacturing time or cost, no distribution time or cost... it's just there - right now!
But the same goes for the labels, and it will be interesting to see how well (or if
) they can maintain their position of providing music to the masses.