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Music 4.5 and CMU Trends consider what a future record label will look like

By | Published on Tuesday 14 February 2017


Next week Music 4.5 will consider what the record label of the future may look like, as artists and their managers increasingly capitalise on new direct-to-fan and distribution tools, seek new sources of finance, and utilise the more flexible label services type arrangements that some music rights firms now offer. Ahead of the debate, the latest CMU Trends article reviews the artist/label relationship in 2017, and finds out more about how companies like BMG and Kobalt are seeking to reinvent the role a record company plays.

The article notes that, despite many people predicting the demise of the record label at various points over the last fifteen years, “most artists still work with a record company – or a business that looks rather like a record company – in one way or another. And – with a few notable exceptions – most new artists are still doing record deals that look very similar to the contracts being signed in the 1990s”. However, it adds, “the artist / artist manager / label relationship has definitely evolved, and continues to change”.

Explaining how his company has sought to alter the function of a record label since relaunching as a new music business in 2008, Alistair Norbury, EVP International Artists at BMG, told CMU: “The BMG approach to record deals is inherently fairer to artists and more transparent than the traditional record deal. We designed it to be so. There was little point in creating a new BMG if it was going to be the same as the old companies. What that means in practice is no hidden deductions, transparency about costs and a strong preference to revenue sharing deals”.

Meanwhile Paul Hitchman, President of Kobalt Music Recordings, also lists his company’s “very transparent accounting” as one of its key innovations, along with the removal of copyright assignment from the deal. “The main difference with our label service deals is that the artist retains ownership of their rights, as well as most of the revenues”, he adds. And the artist isn’t locked into long-term exclusivity either. “Our deals are for a specific project, like an album or EP, and for a relatively short term”.

Premium readers of CMU can access the full CMU Trends article – online or as a PDF – here. You can buy individual CMU Trends articles as a PDF from the CMU shop here, or go premium for £5 a month to access all CMU Trends articles past, present and future, plus the weekly CMU Digest summarising the biggest stories in just a few sentences each Monday.

Meanwhile, Music 4.5’s ‘The Record Label Of The Future?’ event takes place on 23 Feb in London, with Alistair Norbury and Paul Hitchman among the line-up of speakers. Click here for more information or to book your ticket.