News From the Music Biz – Indies Thrive While Majors Struggle and the Death of Liner Notes

Well as the tectonic shifts in the music industry continue it is interesting to see how some indie labels are thriving while their major label opposites are struggling. With news that Sony BMG lost a cool 49 mil last quarter indie labels Sub Pop, Merge and Matador seem to be doing fine according to the article Drowning Out The Big Labels. What explains the indies’ staying power? According to the article by Jon Fine:

For starters, the Web’s flattening of distribution, and the growing appetite for licensing less mainstream music. The Shins have provided music for ads by McDonald’s (MCD), Microsoft (MSFT), and Gap (GAP). “Advertisers realize: ‘I don’t have to get the Beatles to have a successful commercial,'” says Ira Antelis, former music director for ad agency Leo Burnett—and indie bands come cheaper, to boot. Other aspects of the indie world—small staffs, modest expense structures, and strong relationships with an audience and its musicians—are built for a music environment that’s shrinking even as niches become more important.

Now I still maintain that the key to any indie label success is the fact that the management actually love the music they put out. Every label that I have ever been impressed with are always run by music lovers as opposed to “business people” and music fans see that as a reflection in the music the label puts out. That’s not to say that business acumen is not important because it is but unless passion for music is front and center the label will suffer, period.

Ironically enough, one of the things giving indies some new distribution muscle is the Internet but all this digitization of music may in fact spell the end of the ubiquitous liner notes. Now if you are a music geek like me you always read the liner notes multiple times, usually while the CD is playing but according to Shout-Outs To Mom And God? See Online which explains how in the age of the MP3, there is just no room for liner notes anymore. This would be a sad development but as the article explains, there is such a volume of information available online that maybe it is another relic of days gone by. Do you enjoy reading liner notes or are they best left to the dustbin of rock and roll history? Let me know.