What do record labels exist for?

Any And All Records

Any And All Records

Do we need record labels, if yes, then what do they exist for?

One common myth is they exist to filter out the rubbish. The same argument could be put forward for publishers.

We hear all the time of writers who were rejected by a hundred publishers before anyone would take them on.

I dare say musicians have similar stories to tell.

In which case, why is there so much rubbish on record labels? Why are so many bad writers being published?

In other words they are not acting as filters. Far from it. Often as not it is the good stuff that is rejected, it is rejected because it is different. That is why we hear of the writer who was rejected by one hundred publishers. We read their book and think, how could this have been rejected?

The rubbish is then hyped and the public brainwashed into buying.

What then of those creative artists we have never heard of? Who send off their demo disks, their manuscripts, only to get rejected.

The record labels, the publishers, are not acting as filters, they are acting as gatekeepers, deciding what will be read, what will be heard.

Anyone who has the money, can go into a recording studio and record good music. Many sadly go in and record poorly engineered crap, but that is another story.

On the other hand you can invest in your own recording equipment.

At the end of the day good music is good because it is good music, not because it has been hyped by a record label.

A twitter account is more important than a record label, but only if you use it effectively.

For those unsigned artists, Andrew Dubber and Steve Lawson have set up a record label, Any And All Records.

Three people, eight hours, £17 and Any And All Records the world’s fastest growing record label was up and running.

Impromptu – Darin Wilson

Conversations – Steve Lawson and Jez Carr

It is also vital to be on bandcamp, people can then easily listen to, share and download your music.

WattPad has been set up to provide a platform for writers and poets.

About the only useful thing record labels ever did was put records into record shops. But could you listen?

When was the last time you saw a record shop?

Rounder Records in Brighton Record is to close at the end of July after 46 years trading.

Spillers Records in Cardiff which claims to be ‘The Oldest Record Shop In The World’ narrowly avoided closure and eventually had to move from its prime high street spot in 2010 after 60 years in the same location.

Record shops have gone the same was as bookshops. Record shops destroyed by the big record labels, bookshops destroyed by the big publishers.

Good record shops do still exist, Ben’s Records in Guildford, Resident in Brighton, but they are a rarity.

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2 Responses to “What do record labels exist for?”

  1. Chris T-T Says:

    Hi Keith, since you tweeted me this as part of our Twitter discussion, I’ll respond to it: you ask the question (“what are record labels for”), then give your own made-up answer to it (“a filter”), then explain why that answer is wrong.

    That’s either daft or disingenuous.

    Keith, people don’t start a record label to act as some kind of cultural gatekeeper, to lock anyone out, they start one to release and promote music by artists they love (or see/hear something in).

    You’re tearing down a definition that nobody else would use (or live their working life by) in the first place.

    Just because *you* think the music is rubbish, doesn’t mean it is. The audience isn’t ‘brainwashed’, they just have different taste to you, because music is subjective.

    Yes of course, the established capitalist success-based (and over-visual) iconography of the ‘star’ is very prevalent and very problematic, across all culture now – but that’s not record labels’ fault.

    Your point about Twitter is entirely correct but is completely separate to this wrongheaded critique.

  2. keithpp Says:

    All answers are made up, hopefully based upon factual evidence, if not are plagurism.

    I said it is a myth that record companies exist to filter out rubbish. That is what they would like us to believe, only the best is good enough for them. A myth reinforced by the chumps who struggle to be on a record label. Will even debase themselves before Simon Cowell to get a recording contract.

    If a record label is set up to promote what the founders believe to be good, then they are acting as cultural gatekeepers as they are keeping out what they believe to be bad.

    Thus they are acting as cultural filters between those who make the music and those who wish to listen.

    Good and bad in the context is defined as what is commercial. It could just as easily be cans of baked beans. Whether good or bad in a cultural context is irrelevant, it will be hyped to the brain-washed masses who part with their money thinking they are buying into something cool. Music is a commodity.

    This is not just music, it is books, films, clothes.

    Read No Logo by Naomi Klein for an excellent analysis.

    Also The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho.

    There is good and bad music in the same way there is a good and bad wine.

    Dumb the culture down and people lack the ability to choose or judge.

    Not to your taste, is always the fall-back position of those who promote something bad.

    Do not confuse taste with genre. And genre is a problem because it tries to classify, pigeon-hole.

    That is not to say there are not those who promote music for the love of music.

    Only last week I had lunch with the director of an international music festival. He does not do it for money. He does it for the love of music and as a consequence enjoys what he is doing, even though it is a lot of hard work.

    I have seen good musicians play and thought, what a pity this performance has not been recorded. My reaction has not been, they ought to be on a music label.

    What will a music label provide?


    When was the last time anyone saw or passed by a record shop?

    After lunch with the festival director, I checked out several of the artists who I may wish to see. Few had the means to listen to their music, those that had it was cumbersome, a few seconds snippets of lofi.

    As for download.

    I tried this a few months ago. It was a pain. It was only because I had code for free download I persevered. I would not have otherwise bothered.

    They all seem to exist in a long lost world of record labels and record shops. A world their record label is not going to disillusion them from as it is not in their interest to do so, as they may then question why do they need a record label, as many indeed have done and found themselves better off without.

    Shadowboxer have found they do not need a record label. They go into a recording studio and engineer their own music.

    As does Imogen Heap, only she went one step better and built her own recording studio in her own house.

    Bandcamp provides the platform to listen, share, download music. If people like it is easy to share. If they like enough to buy, download is easy.

    That is not to say there are not people who set up a record label because they love music. But it should not be taken that it follows that artists need a record label, as they do not.

    Andrew Dubber and Steve Lawson cover many of these points in a somewhat shambolic and rambling discussion between themselves. Too much wine methinks.


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