The major Christian record labels seem to be decreasing while the independent Christian record labels seem to be increasing. The lines between the major labels and the independent labels are starting to fade. When you walk into your local Christian book store, you will notice that the music department is shrinking while the book department is growing. What is causing such a drastic change? Are people not buying Christian music any more?
Technology is the primary reason for the change. Consumers are still buying music, but CD sales are decreasing while digital music sales are increasing. Technology has not only changed the way music is being bought, but also the way music is made. At one time, an individual could not afford to record an album on their own without the backing of a major label. However, that’s not the case anymore! Anyone can record in someone’s spare bedroom studio with equipment that costs less than the price of a full album produced and recorded in Nashville… so long as they have the right knowledge and skills to go along with the technology.
With independent artists, distribution deals are no longer necessary when songs can be set up for sale on iTunes, MySpace, the artist’s website, etc. This allows a person to replicate fewer CD’s to sell at live concerts and ministry opportunities… and instead, sell digital music internationally right from their own website. How cool is that?
Technology has also changed the way an independent artist can market their new album. With e-mail blasts, social networking, and internet-based press releases, you can reach your fans without the necessity of spending lots of money on television advertising, radio advertising, and print advertising.
The playing field between the major label and the independent artist has been leveled. Why would anyone want to sign an 85/15 major label deal when the major label is no longer needed? Sure, they can give you a nice fat cash advance to record your album, but remember that you still have to pay that advance back to the major label with your 15% of the sales. That’s right. You will not see another dime of the music sales until the advance is paid back out of your 15%. Ouch!
Ok, but how can I, the independent artist, survive in this huge music world that was once controlled by the major labels? I’m glad you asked. That will be covered in my third and final blog post in this series. But first, I would love to hear your stories about technology and how it has changed your life in the Christian music world. I look forward to your comments.