It’s a Long Way to the Top – Diary of a 21st Century Rock n Roll Band – The Day Bob Dylan Dies and Do Artists Need Record Labels?

Kurt Dahl leads a double life. First and foremost, he is the drummer of Saskatoon rock band One Bad Son ( Second, he is writing his Master’s of Law thesis on the future of the music industry, and how artists will continue to make money in a digital world.

The Rock and Roll Report contacted him to write a diary for his latest venture: driving to Vancouver to record new songs with Default drummer Danny Craig as producer. Below are his entries…

Saturday Feb. 7th – The Day Bob Dylan Dies

Spent the day listening to guitar takes and thinking about something: What will we do when all our music legends start to die? Will there be anyone that comes close to Dylan, Young, Townsend, Bowie, Cohen, etc? Mitch Mitchell died the other day, and I sat and wondered whether any drummers exist out there with the same rambling, melodic, jazz-on-steroids feel? Doubt it. Just like the Who were a tenth the band once Moon died.

SO: are there new legends being created to replace them? Will my kids talk with fervor about the ‘classics’ like The Jonas Brothers and Three Days Grace (I hope not). Maybe acts like Kings of Leon and the Killers will keep making records, keep honing their craft – but even then, these bands still seem like fans of the aforementioned greats, not greats themselves.

And sure there are always great underground acts that might be legendary, but never make it to the masses to become legends on a pop culture scale. Perhaps this is the answer to my question: culture has become so fragmented and individualized, that it can no longer be called ‘pop’ as in ‘popular’ – no set of bands or artists truly defines our generation, because each of us is listening to (and consuming generally) different stuff…we all have our own playlist! There is no playlist that could truly represent this generation!

So when Dylan dies, I will be sad, because he won’t be replaced. Not by someone who can relate to us all the way he can. I’m not sure what I’ll do that day. Pour a stiff scotch, listen to ‘Blonde on Blonde’. Maybe download the new Killers album.

Sunday Feb. 8th – Do Artists Need Record Labels?

My thesis examines this question. Record labels used to provide 5 things: recording, manufacturing, distribution, promotion and management. In exchange for these things, artists traditionally would assign their rights in the underlying songs being recorded. But in a digital world, artists no longer need to rely on labels for these functions: they can record and manufacture albums for a fraction of the cost, promote it on Facebook, Myspace, etc., then distribute it online for free.

If this was the whole story, the answer to my question would be no, artists do not need labels anymore. However, because the Internet allows any artist to record and upload songs in a matter of minutes, there is an overabundance of material online – a barrage of crap – that music fans must sift through to find what they like. In this setting, promotion is needed to connect the right bands with the right fans. Other parties besides record labels can provide this promotion, but they are still experts in this area.

The real question for artists is how much of the aforementioned functions they can do themselves, and how much of their rights and perhaps artistic freedom they are willing to give away to acquire them from an outside party. The more times you have to ask someone else for an answer, the more it will cost you as an artist.

Any musician (or anyone else) interested in reading my thesis can have it, at no benefit to me. However, I ask that you donate $5 to your local United Way, and email me at, and its all yours.

For more details check out this article on Kurt and his thesis at


ONE BAD SON: Orange CityBuy the CD