So what does a record label do?

If you follow any of the music advice blogs or twitter streams you’ll know that it’s DIY time for musicians.  Record it yourself, release it yourself, promote it yourself; all your own work, no meddling record label.  Build up your fan base and take control.  Anyone would think record labels were a thing of the past, particularly the majors.
A couple of my colleagues are just releasing albums, coincidentally both signed to Island, so I’ve taken a closer look at what the label is doing for them.

Henry Priestman is long established as a writer, producer and (with The Yachts and The Christians) a performer.  His album The Chronicles of Modern Life started very DIY and he was as shocked as anyone (I believe) when Stiff agreed to release it.  A bit of hype and hard work later, and Island takes it on, and by luck or good management he’s all over the media – plenty of Radio 2 plays, TV and gigs.  The ball is well and truly rolling for him and some of that came from his own graft, but I’m pretty sure the label facilitated some opportunities.

Mike Kintish is one half of The Yeah You’s (important apostrophe apparently).  He’s no new boy but a little more factory fresh than Henry!  His band signed to Island last year.  With his first single (15 minutes) he too is all over the media.
Neither artist was ticking all the boxes with what we perhaps expect a label to look for (big fan base, established brand, plenty of gigs), so what was in it for Island and what’s in it for them?
For Island, I presume they primarily see a marketable product (but I can’t believe someone there didn’t love the music too!), something that fits in a niche, though where the income is now…. I hope they have a better handle on that than I do!
Henry and Mike make great music; they don’t need any label help for that, so the value of the deal must be media connections.  One of the key assets of a record label is its people and who they know in the media; people who can open doors at radio stations, newspaper and magazine offices, TV broadcasters and the media makers who license music for advertising and film, people who simply know other people in the music and media business.  OK, DIY can get you in too, but the powerful, personal connections that exist in a label give the artist an edge.
Interestingly, Island (and Henry and Mike) are filling in some gaps in online social sites  – some Facebook, Twitter and Bebo going on now, as well as the original myspace.  Singles are out, albums to follow – good luck guys!

The Yeah You’s on iTunes

Henry Priestman on iTunes.

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