What I learned at the 2010 IMMMS (Part 1: The Major Record Companies)

Last September I attended the 2010 Industry Meltdown Midwest Music Summit, held in Milwaukee Wisconsin. It was a great chance to learn what musicians are facing in the music industry today. Things have certainly changed since the 1990’s when I was involved in the music scene in Portland Oregon.

The most striking change is that there is now an overwhelming number of musicians out there trying to earn a living doing what they love. It used to be that you could make money if you had a record deal with a major label. Now, due to the sheer number of artists out there, the majors are very picky and very stingy.

If you get signed with a major label, what you get is a lot of exposure and marketing muscle pushing your brand, but generally only a meager paycheck. That is because of the “360 Deals” that the major labels (due to their relatively strong bargaining position these days) force artists to sign. A 360 deal basically means that the record company gets a piece of all the artist’s earnings, not just the record sales. Revenues from concerts, merchandise, endorsements, and ringtones are subject to these deals.

If you want to make money, the independent labels are the place to make that happen. But the tradeoff is that they have limited (if any) marketing muscle to put behind you. That means you will have to do a lot of your own marketing to succeed. Marketing for musicians is something I’ll cover next time in Part 2.

This is part 1 of a multiple part series on my impressions from the 2010 Industry Meltdown Midwest Music Summit. Other posts from the series:

Part 1: The Major Record Companies
Part 2: Marketing Your Band

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