Friday, March 30, 2007

A&R 2.0?

In it's own way, not only was this a matter of time, but this is one of the bigger news items in the music biz today and for the future...
Sony BMG U.K. is getting closer to the unsigned artist community through a new interactive Web initiative.

The music major is encouraging musicians to become members of its RCA or Columbia labels' A&R "virtual neighbourhood," where users can post tracks, editorial and visual content on new community blogging Web sites and

Staff at Sony BMG U.K. are participating across the new platforms as bloggers and digital A&Rs.

The project is the brainchild of Sony BMG U.K. and Ireland chairman/CEO Ged Doherty. "This is the first step of the A&R part of our digital strategy," he tells "It immediately fitted what my personal vision of what our company needs to be, which is open, transparent, grass roots, community-based, and employing Web 2.0 technology and the spirit of it."
Ok, first things first, let's make certain that musicians know what they get into...

  • If you choose to do this read the small print. If you don't know what the small print means, get a lawyer to read it for you. - I strongly suspect that there will be something in these end user agreements that give these labels the "pole position" for you if you get hot. Worse yet the labels may be able to claim ownership outright, in perpetuity, like MySpace and MTV's early end user agreements attempted to pull off. In other words, "know your rights".

  • Think hard and see if YOU can do better than a major - Ok, so you want to be a superstar? We all do. But odds are against you and the fact is that signing to a major may get you into the catbird's seat for licensing and promotion, you will have contracts where your percentage of the cut will be low, you won't own your masters and you will spend the majority of your time toiling through a contract that can work more against you than for you

  • This means even more work for the artist and less work for record companies... so where will be your A&R cut? - The fact is A&R is hard work. You spend a lot of time searching for talent, traveling, promoting, handshaking and performing other kinds of social acts (some of which can straddle the law). And then there is the part that includes listening to CD after CD demo. Making your profile available online in these major label sites essentially makes some, not all, of the A&R work more efficient. That's work. That's a labor... so where is your cut? Well, don't expect any. I don't expect A&R 2.0 shifting profits into the hands of the laborers... it's about stakeholders pure and simple and this is simply another, more efficient mode of capital accumulation.
In short, if you don't watch out you will have "new boss, same as the old boss" over and over again. And worse yet, that new boss won't be the artist.

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