GUIDES

WE WERE GONNA DO IT ANYWAY

“The labels have been snookered by Steve Jobs, who could sense their ignorance and preyed upon them.” Bob Lefsetz.


Last week Apple launched the iCloud. In the same week Bjork announced the upcoming release of her new album Biophilia as ten separate iPad apps, all housed within one ‘mother’ app which allows fans to interact with the songs or even create new versions. The apps will encompass live music performances as well as clips directed by Michel Gondry.

The first trailer for the album is lo-fi footage of Bjork listening to the first track on the car stereo as she passes snow capped mountains somewhere in Iceland I’m guessing? Cool!

One of the most iconic songwriters in the world just aligned herself with the most powerful ‘legal’ music provider on the planet.

For $150 million, approximately 40 million to the bottom line of each recording company, Steve Jobs just bought out the labels. $150 million is loose change to Apple.

“The labels just sold out their future.” – Bob Lefsetz.

We knew the labels were dinosaurs, somewhere around 1999 when Lars Ulrich the emotional drummer from Metallica got his knickers in a knot over Sean Parker’s Napster. Ulrich later ate his words by the way…


Or perhaps it was in 1979 when Tom Petty, unhappy with the terms, declared bankruptcy to free himself of his contract with Shelter Records.

Or 1972 when Stevie Wonder won a higher royalty rate, full artistic freedom and publishing rights over Motown’s Berry Gordy.

Major labels for independent artists are soooooooo last century. And I’m talking about truly independent here. Not boutique labels with major label distribution.

Independent = no affiliation with the majors.

We’re cottage industries that could see the major label deal was never going to work in our favour.

We tour. We play to living breathing audiences whose loyalty and trust we have built over many, many years. Album sales? That’s live performance income for us. You want a limited edition vinyl of my first album? Sure thing, how about I sign it for you while we talk about the best place to get a good cup of joe in this town?

We worked out that those people who come to our shows, who’ve come along for the ride because we’re singing about something we actually care about, well they bring people along to our shows and those people bring people along to our shows… And so it goes.

We don’t have to sell anything.

As attendance at live shows and festivals soar; as musicians collaborate in communities and tour together, as I film a new song in the rehearsal studio on my iPhone and upload it straight to my webpage for the people (who have nearly sold out our show) to watch, as our friends spread the word via their twitter feed during the show, as I go to bed later tonight knowing who’s listening to my music because they just introduced me to their mother, husband, girlfriend, brother – I see that we’ve been living ‘the future’ of music right from the start.

To paraphrase Gillian Welch who started her own label Acony Records as a reaction to Universal when they bought out the label she’d released her first two albums on:

[We] “were gonna do it anyway, even if it didn’t pay.”