Label Signs to Artist

Label Signs to Artist

The group Blue Scholars recently posted the following on their blog:

The old record deal model is dying. Not to say it’s obsolete or not worth it, it’s just that while new alternatives are waiting to be implemented, those traditional opportunities are drying up. Like print publication gigs for journalists. There’s a much larger pool of independent artists with the means to produce music independently. There’s that whole “new media” phenomenon to promote your music. They say the world is at the independent artists’ fingertips, but it’s only half true. Things still cost money to produce–labels might’ve pimped artists, but at least they came out of pocket to back a project financially.

Things change, it happens, we live with it. But changing times demand changing ways of doing things, especially in an economic downturn. Which is why, after ending our partnership with Rawkus last year, we turned down some record deal offers that we might’ve signed in a more quaint and hopeful era.

Today, it gives me great pleasure to announce a collaboration with Duck Down Records and Caffe Vita to release two of our upcoming projects (OOF! EP, August 25 and an untitled full-length album, mid-2010) and re-releasing our last album (originally released through Rawkus), Bayani (Redux).

With the record industry in flux, conditions are ripe for an alternative. One where the artist, rather than becoming an employee of a label or sponsor, contracts the label and sponsors to do work for them. Everybody still gets a check. But it’s a relationship where the artists (and their handpicked “team”) not only have creative freedom but economic power. A counterbalance to Industry Rule #4080.

Honestly, if it were up to me, I’d put out the music for free (and get paid for shows and hopefully, royalties). Or work out a trade for whatever you can me hook up with from your job. That would be ideal if independent artists had more access to the media (we don’t) and more people paid attention to shit not on TV and radio (universal health care would help us out too).

Realities what they are, we–a hip-hop group from the slept-on capital, Seattle–couldn’t let the opportunity to work with Duck Down Records and Caffe Vita pass by. They’ve both retained their independence and thrived on it in a marketplace filled with big business trying to stomp em out. I think they heard us and our audacious plan out because, in essence, they share the same philosophy towards their ventures that we do with our music.

I don’t even like the how word “independent” is used these days but I still fucks with the idea behind the word, which remains relevant from now until the marketplace gets its past-due clean slate. Until then, our best look as independent musicians is to not just support each other, but to support independent entities–whether it be the local mom’s and pop’s store or a family-owned restaurant to independent films and media to grassroots organizations and your kids’ martial arts classes.

Or, we can keep chasing the big record-deal unicorn.

No. Not with all these incredible new tracks laying around and the opportunity to put out records with a record label without signing a record deal. With a label whose music I grew up on and in a changing marketplace ready for new self-sustaining business models. With financial backers who share the same vision of creative and economic independence. They get it, we get it. And everybody (including, most of all: you, the listener) gets a win.

Geo/Prometheus Brown
Blue Scholars


I think it’s great that people are trying something new. Bringing in a non music company like Caffe Vita also seems like a good move. If you are going to form a partnership in turbulent times then choosing a company making a living from coffee (and using your project as a loss leader or marketing hook) is probably a better choice than a partnership with a company trying to monetize the sale of music and related properties.

I am most impressed, however, with the way they spun the press release – “Label signs to artist” is great… There have been other artists who have hired managers as employees or contracted labels to provide certain services but those four words tap a nerve that everyone in music circles is feeling right now. The world as we knew it just a few years ago is indeed upside down. If there is a publicist in the mix for those guys who spun their new release plan this way they should hang on to him or her for dear life.

Original post is here: Duck Down