Are Record Labels Dying? The Future of Record Labels

If you are alive in this decade, you’ve probably heard chatter of things like, “The Music Industry Is Changing, Record Labels Are Dying!”

This is a very controversial topic, but it’s one that needs to be discussed. The truth is, labels are feeling the pressure from new technology and are struggling to survive in this ever-changing market.

The internet has given consumers (and artists) an unprecedented amount of choice; people can buy and stream music online at any time of day.

The artist can now use social media to build up a fanbase and share their music without the help of a label and it isn’t unheard of for independent artists to sell out event spaces for their own launches.

We have not even begun to touch on the impact that NFTs will have on the music industry

If record labels are going to stay alive, they need to redefine their niche and start adapting quickly!

To cover this topic in depth, we are going to look at the following:

  • What record labels do and why are they so important?
  • The history of the music industry, what is happening today and where we are going in the future.
  • How can record labels stay alive when there are such huge changes taking place around them? (this section will answer that question)
Are Record Labels Dying? The Future of Record Labels

The future of record labels is certainly on shaky grounds now, with many artists expressing their desire to retain control over their music.

This trend is accelerating the shift towards a more direct model of music distribution, raising questions about the role and relevance of record labels in today’s rapidly-evolving digital landscape.

Are record labels still relevant? A few years ago, the answer would have been an emphatic yes. However, as technology evolves and gives artists greater control over their work, this question has become increasingly complex.

There’s a growing concern that the music industry is dying, but it’s more accurate to say that it’s transforming.

The rise of streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have changed the game entirely, giving artists new ways to reach audiences without going through traditional intermediaries.

The perception that “record labels are evil”, is mainly due to numerous historical cases where artists have been taken advantage of financially and creatively.

This has led many upcoming artists to question whether signing with a label is worth it. In conclusion, while there are still challenges ahead for the music industry as a whole and for record labels in particular, this period of transition also offers opportunities for innovation.

The future of music industry seems to be taking shape in a way that places more power in the hands of those who create the music, which may ultimately lead to an environment that fosters greater creativity and freedom than ever before.

What Record Labels Do & Why They Are So Important

To put it simply, even in 2022, record labels are the best way to get an artists music heard by a large audience. They are experts in the field of marketing and promotion, and they have been doing it for years .

The label comes with its connections with big industry contacts, music studios, producers, publicists, booking agents etc.

They also offer financial and legal support to their artists, which is essential in the music industry. Labels are responsible for signing new talent, negotiating contracts, funding albums, organizing tours, and marketing campaigns…the list goes on!

As an artist, you sort of just need to show up with your talent, do the thing, and the rest is taken care of. Taking the label out of that then means you need to be and do all of those things yourself.

But could that be a good thing, and direction artists should aspire to go in? With all of this talk about owning your masters and controlling your own musical path…maybe labels could become a thing of the past? Or maybe we will see a change in the music industry similar to the book publishing industry with self-published authors and small presses thriving alongside the big guys.

The History Of The Music Industry, What’s Happening Today & Where We’re Going In The Future

Music industry

Typically a struggling but passionate musician could be performing at an open mic event somewhere and be scouted by a talent scout who represents a label. As record labels are always on the lookout for new and exciting artists; if they find someone promising then they are more than willing to invest in them.

That is another reason that labels are still very much effective. They are like a bank. A struggling artist seldom has the money upfront or risk available to invest in renting a studio, hiring a producer for their album, having it mixed and mastered — all of this can cost a lot of money.

Record label deals often come with an advance which can help the artist to cover some or all of these costs.

Of course, you owe them this money, so once your music starts selling and you begin to break even or make them a profit through sales and streams of your music, the advance is then considered recouped.

In this way, record labels are often seen as a necessary evil by artists; they are needed to get your music out there but it’s not always a fair or equal partnership.

However, we are the Industry Hackerz, we believe firmly in crafting your own path and kicking down doors, so we are going to tell you how you can make this fast-changing industry work FOR YOU and not against you!

Labels are less important than they used to be. You can do almost all of this stuff on your own, and if you’re an artist with enough drive then launching a label is easier now than it’s ever been before.

The Way People Consume Music Has Changed

Listening to music

YouTube, Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Tidal and a dozen other services have all but killed the physical album. With people being able to listen to anything, anywhere at any time, they are no longer buying albums like they used to.

In 2002, Tower Records filed for bankruptcy due to competition from digital downloads on the internet. CD sales plummeted by 50% between 2000 and 2009. They eventually reopened as a digital store.

While people still do buy albums, it is just less practical to go out and buy a physical CD when you can just listen to the album on your phone, computer, or even your little AI-robot-speaker-device (lol, we are in the future)

Another thing is, while albums, EPs and LPs still get released, the consumer doesn’t need to care. They hear a song, they like it, they buy it. They hear a song, they Shazam it, they stream it.

There is zero friction in the process. There are no barriers to entry, and that’s a good thing for everyone but traditional record labels.

What This Means For The Rogue Artist

Are Record Labels Dying? The Future of Record Labels

For a smart, business-savvy artist, this is a good thing. We are in the Wild West right now. There are no rules or regulations that are being enforced because there are just far too many players involved at every level of music production and consumption for anyone to limit your success as an artist!

You have access to high-quality studios at affordable prices, music producers are ready to collaborate as mutually beneficial creative partnerships are in style, and there are more ways to get your music heard than ever before.

The internet has leveled the playing field for artists, making it possible for anyone with talent and drive to make a name for themselves.

Music videos that were once only reserved for the biggest stars are now commonplace and can be made on a budget.

You no longer need to rely on a record label to get your music out there. You can do it yourself, and you don’t even have to leave your bedroom!

So, Are Record Labels Dying?

record label

In shirt, no, they are not, but they are changing – as is the musical ecosystem and food chain.

Record labels are still very valid but you do have options:

  • Deals with major labels
  • Deals with independent labels
  • Start your own record label
  • Enjoy a solo career

Your choices will come down to what is available to you and which direction you want to take your music career.

Starting Your Own Label: What Do Things Look Like For Future Record Labels?

By now you recognise there is more opportunity for future labels, especially artist-first and artist-led labels. Here is what starting you own label could look like and why it isn’t all doom and gloom:

Co-Release Opportunities

Co-releasing albums with other labels, especially international ones, to expand an artist’s reach into new markets. For example, co-releasing with a foreign label can provide exposure in previously unattainable territories.

Spotify and Other Streaming Platforms

Adapting to the continued growth of music streaming and its impact on the industry. Music streaming services like Spotify are only becoming more dominant, and record labels need strategies to thrive in this landscape.

Keeping You On Your Competitive Toes

  • Finding ways to stay competitive and relevant despite the control of major labels. A few huge labels control most of the industry, so new entrants need creative approaches to make an impact.

Quick On New Trends

Major labels also have major overheads that slow things down when it comes to jumping on emerging trends. They have all kinds of nods of approval they need to get before pivoting.

You get to capitalize on emerging technologies like AI, VR, and blockchain. These innovations present opportunities for new future labels to enhance experiences, better engage fans, and tap new revenue streams.

Overall, the future looks bright for nimble and creative record labels who leverage trends like streaming, technology, and strategic partnerships to thrive in a competitive landscape dominated by major players.

About Author

Arielle P

Arielle P

Songwriter | Music Producer | Engineer.

With a background in music production and a strong passion for education, Arielle is dedicated to helping emerging artists navigate the music industry. She has worked with a diverse range of artists, from indie rock bands to well-known hip-hop and grime artists. Arielle's unique approach to teaching focuses on empowering artists to take control of their brand, ensuring they retain creative ownership throughout their journey. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with new sounds in her home studio and sharing her insights through music production tutorials and workshops.

📧 Email Arielle