But I think that's a one-dimensional, pessimistic way to look at a multi-faceted business. The stats are there, and I think that to a certain degree we're fucked, yes. But I consider myself a cross between a realist and a optimist, and there is more there - it just needs to be uncovered. New business models, fresh ideas and letting go of previous assumptions aren't lame daydreams anymore. They work, and really well if done right. Lots of labels are using their roundtables as brainstorming machines. If anything, I think the kamikaze of budding ideas and trial/error is an indicator that the times are more alive than ever. Just because sales are suffering, the music industry (the communal and social aspects) are thriving, pigging out on almost every medium that communicates a message. When I started getting into music whole-heartedly, I never imagined I'd hear some of my favorite bands ontheradio.
Look at 360 deals - in a nutshell, a record company (mostly majors) take control of all the branding aspects of becoming a popular, profitable band (merch, management, booking) in addition to their regular duties (publicity, distribution, A&R, and recording). As an idea and a theory, a 360 deal can be a machine to reckon with. It worked a world wonder with Paramore, and there is no argument that their "brand" is wholly engraved into the viral rock community. If a label actually executes a 360 deal and to their best of their contacts list, young signees (and maybe some veterans too) would be given all the material they need to really break into the big time and keep that train going. Focus would be taken away from quick profits and breaking that one or two single; a band could grow and mature because the label is making money off of all their brand ventures and not just one album go. Sort of like a glorified A&R job. There would be no reason to leave the band in the back of the file cabinet. And even though the percentage contracted for the label versus the band on a deal like this isn't pretty on the eyes - it makes sense. And for both parties too, assuming two things: First of all, the label actually has to do their work. Just because you have a 360 deal doesn't mean that your team is going to push you as such. If you do get back-burnered, you're more in trouble than if you signed a "regular" deal. Second of all, if you sign a 360 deal, this is assuming your band is going to catch on. Lookin' pretty and sounding nice is all you need, but clicking is but a mere game of luck. But first, let me sidetrack.
Finding a label doesn't ensure a golden ticket, and I think that's one of the most common misconceptions about being a young, eager band in the viral rock community. Signing to a respectful label (or well-known) doesn't guarantee you anything, except maybe a small signing buzz; the actual success of your band depends on the team that works for you, the anticipation you've already created, or (simply) the talent you posses. Signing to a unknown label with lots of money is an easy game of Russian roulette, but money is a kind slut. Signing to major label is a warrant for death if you can't sell enough albums, and your major probably won't market you enough to do so. Ultimately, it's all about contacts, and while lots of bands have fallen victim to these mindtraps, there are bands that have found successful deals that aren't dependent on upstreaming, one of the majors, tons of mula, or a well-known indie. The only thing that matters are CONTACTS. If you have them, your path isn't so destroyed. Just because you haven't heard of the label doesn't mean they're not well-connected. Granted, I am not looking for a label or even playing in a band, but if I were, contacts would be the one of the first things on my check list.
But what does this have to do with 360 deals? A lot. Here is my opinion on these nifty 360s (as of right now): I don't like them. I think that major labels are too shady to actually execute a 360 to their full potential, and I think that something like this can only work in an ideal land. I think that new bands are too vulnerable, and that if this does become a common practice, there will be more failures that wins. Touring, merch and other extraneous typically non-label projects are more than crucial in the development of a new band (or an old one, for that matter). Just because a label signs on to take care of these projects doesn't mean they would be the best at it. Putting all your chips in one historically inconsistent basket is a set-up for disaster. Gambling is only fun in Vegas.
So, it's an idea with kinks, but it's still a success beyond the drawing board. Here's another idea that sparks my interest. Lala.com is teaming up with Eyeball Records to sell you digital and physical copies of Pompeii's upcoming album for 9.99 - FOR BOTH. You get the instant gratification of digital files and satisfaction of physical music soon thereafter for the same price as you would pay for either or. Now, this is really like a mind trick. A physical copy of an album is eventually going to be a digital version of an album, but nonetheless, I think there is a significant message embedded in this offer. Here, it's recognized that digital music is an avenue of immediate gratification. Here it's recognized that the consumer will opt out of the physical copy of an album if it means they can get the digital right away, hence getting the music to their ears faster. But it also remembers that music fans aren't so heartless and cheap; people still like to buy music. The service is only available via a Myspace player, but I think they are onto something. By combining the two, and introducing digital before physical, the more-dedicated but needy music fans are wholly satisfied. Only speaking for myself, I would be more than willing to purchase an album this way.
The only possible way to investigate the music industry now is to open up the spectrum to a broader field of view. It's obvious that there is a lot more to digest than digital versus physical, major versus indie or any comparison of the like. Society isn't as easily as de-constructible or predictable as when first day sales could ensure a platinum record, not when we have lightning technology and all it's glories. There are possibilities and new business ventures, but they will have to be uncovered. And to say that the industry is dying because sales are on a pre-determined path towards the bottom is forgetting what the music industry is - trends of the music consumer. And as long as I'm still seeing these sold out shows and excited fan-girls and boys, the stage will not be sleeping, the record stores will not be sleeping, and my wallet - our wallets - will not be sleeping.