Facing the music
There’s another interesting record industry story around today – Radiohead are allowing their fans to download their latest album and decide for themselves what price they want to play. I’m not sure what we’ll learn from it, but it will be interesting to see where this one goes. As the musings of the BBC’s entertainment reporter show, though, this all plays into a bigger set of questions about the role of record labels in the future of the industry.
The crux of the argument comes in this passage:
'Maybe Radiohead need a record company. Maybe they need someone to tell them their output is getting a bit samey now and isn't actually that good, and maybe they should try something else.
And maybe the record company needs them, to get a slice of that sale in order to fund the next Radiohead, whoever that may be.
Either that, or everyone will go down the Radiohead route and new ways of developing and discovering the next Radioheads will take over.'
It strikes me that, once, record companies were firmly (and seemingly indefinitely) at the centre of a supply chain. Their role was assured by virtue of this position and their unique ability to connect bands with the mass market. But with the opportunity for bands to connect directly with audiences (relatively cheaply) provided by the web, this position in the supply chain looks less and less assured.
So the question for the future becomes this: what will be the value-added of the labels? Can they show that they are the guardians of the industry of the future, by doing things that no-one else can?