This post is to elevate gurdonark’s long comment on the previous “artist services” blog entry to a full post, so that people who don’t read the comments will see it. (I wish WordPress had a button on comments to push them up to the front page).
I agree that cdbaby and tunecore are not “labels”. CDbaby is a service which also offers a retail outlet. Tunecore is a service
I also agree that in the long run, arbiters must arise if one is to differentiate between community-based mass participation and the “endorsement” of a “label” which sorts through product.
I don’t see tunecore as a replacement for the label, nor did I read the post to suggest it served that purpose. I see it as one more aspect of the unbundling of label functions. In the past, a label provided a broad range of services, from providing capital for recording (at what amounted to unfortunate lending rates), providing some very gifted “ears” to sift the interesting things from the uninteresting things (and a large number of very non-gifted a & r ears who tried to do so, as one would expect in any field as tricky as creative endeavors), enhanced distribution on radio and in retail outlets (enhanced, sadly, by various forms of payola), and tour and marketing support.
Tunecore is the unbundling of one of the services–the ability to get distribution of mp3s for anyone. A Tunecore listing, though, becomes a vanity process unless either mass acceptance is gained through some form of arbiter of taste or mass acceptance is built by the band through self-marketing.
I agree that one is going to need an Ahmet Ertegum (though I’d have chosen a different arbiter of taste, the idea is the same). But the unbundling process will also extend to the arbiters. The ‘net culture has already begun to create them on its own, and will inevitably accelerate the process of creating new resources to choose good music from bad in the way that label a & r fellows used to do.
It’s fair to say that Tunecore is not the solution, but I see it instead as only one of many different unbundled solutions that will arise. If I understand Lucas’ point, it’s that record labels will arise which can give artists enhanced clout (e.g., through giving them the imprimatur of label approval) as their products are marketed. This purpose for labels, rather than the adhesion market dominance of old, is a good place for a leaner, meaner new label.
I agree with Victor that Tunecore will not *be* the new form of label, but I do believe that Tunecore-type services offer one element of unbundled services that a new kind of label can use to promote its products.
At the same time, the creation of these new arbiters of quality, whether they be labels or journalists, is the next wave–much more than a “next wave” of musicians.
To me, the revolution is in progress, but the ways it will be televised and who will hold the camera is in flux.