Two blog posts dropped into my inbox this week. One from Elliott Van Buskirk’s Wired blog and one from Gerd Leonhard on Digital Music News. Both posts had a similar headline [in fact it could be argued that Leonard's post was identical to Van Buskirk's which was posted 6 months earlier] – MP3 Blogs Could Be the Next Record Labels.
Here’s why I think that dog won’t hunt. First – music blogs by definition need to be independent and transparent. If they are to remain the frontline in filtering the best music that can be found and they are to be a ‘trusted source’ as I like to call them, then they can not make their beds alongside any record label nor should they make money selling music as Van Buskirk posits. They need to remain editorially pure, if they don’t their traffic along with their authenticity will dry up immediately.
Second – These writers seem to infer that the record label’s will stop being A&R sources. I doubt that will be the case. In the major label’s case there maybe an argument that their A&R activities will change as they are always on the look out for turning a quick buck. Classic A&R methods should never change – it’s about finding, filtering and developing over the long term, great bands and musicians. The independent labels thrive on this. In a phone call earlier this year with Megan Jasper at Sub Pop Records and over a few dinners in Portland with Portia Sabin and Maggie Vail from Kill Rock Stars, as well as over drinks with indie label owners at SXSW I have found that not only are these labels thriving but they have been having their best years ever in terms of sales. The bottom is dropping out of the major label system not the independent record label world. There’s also the argument that bands and artists don’t actually need a record label but that’s another post.
Van Buskirk’s post included five points that he thought would determine why music blogs would benefit by becoming record labels:
1. They have the audience.
2. Fans already think of them as tastemakers.
3. They have lots of experiencing in judging new music.
4. They can submit songs to digital distribution networks such as IODA, The Orchard, IRIS, Tunecore and so on, just like anyone else can.
5. Or, by selling music directly from the blog, they can collect a higher percentage of revenue than would be available through iTunes and other outlets.
It doesn’t wash. 1. Yes they do. 2. Maybe. 3. That’s a real stretch [judging is an odd word btw.] 4. Just as indie labels do today. 5. Ditto. Basically there’s nothing new here and the argument is very weak. It seems that both Van Buskirk and Leonhard are caught up in the buzz around blogs such as Perez Hilton’s and by the cash that’s changing hands for some blogs, cash that’s coming from major labels. The majors are in a panic and will clutch at any straw as a lifeline as their business continues to tank. Music blogs that wish to be taken seriously [and I hope that Pampelmoose is] should stay well away from the feeding frenzy. It will end in tears.
Taking a look at social networking and its influence might be a better way for these two to spend their time – Life On The Edge: Learning From Facebook. And also this from Dave Winer – Why I Say I’m A Blogger.