I’m scratching my head with regard to these record company layoffs.  What are the bosses thinking?

We can complain that a salary cut at the top can save multiple jobs at the bottom.

We can look to Steve Jobs, who famously said during the dot come meltdown that Apple was going to innovate its way out of the crisis.

But what’s most fascinating to me is that record labels are not like Caterpillar, not like Chrysler, not like Home Depot.

No company’s going to rush in and steal Caterpillar’s business.  Caterpillar is tanking because of the slowdown in construction.  
We can detail all the problems of Chrysler, but even Toyota is hurting.

And it takes so much money to ramp up in the auto and construction industries.  A kid in his dorm doesn’t undercut them with some all night programming sessions on his laptop.

But music is different.  It’s easy to make.  Can be expensive to market, but how good is the major label marketing when there’s no one working there anymore?  When they’ve gutted their touring and new media departments?

In other words, it’s incredibly shortsighted for record labels to be laying people off now.  Because they don’t have a monopoly on the marketplace.

One can outsource certain functions.  But you need a core team, familiar with all the ins and outs, that believes it belongs.

You need youth, who are not only in touch with trends, but have few expenses and are dedicated.

The fewer acts you sign, the more turf you cede to your opponents in the game, the independents.  Majors used to believe they could just skim the cream off the top, when an act got traction, they’d sign them.  But with sales so anemic and radio less consequential and the Internet delivering the ability to do it yourself, do you really need the big label?  Do you need to give up all that action for so little in return?

Now is when the future of the music business is being written.  Just like major media corporations like Viacom and Tribune could end up in different hands, when the dust clears, when the economy is healthy, expect completely different people to be in charge of music production.  Most likely the same young ‘uns above, who are willing to work for bupkes, all night.

There’s no stranglehold on creativity.  Not only artistic, but business too.  A great thought does not have to come in the package of a million dollar executive.  One can posit that the greatest thoughts, the best innovations, come from those unburdened by the so-called truth.  Successful entrepreneurs constantly state that if they knew what they did now, they never would have started.  That ignorance is truly bliss.

If you truly care about music, don’t lament the loss of your job at the major label.  It was just a matter of when, anyway.  Hopefully you’ve saved some of your salary, not blown it all on a big house and a German car lease.  Use your assets to build something. Utilizing your expertise.  If you truly care about music, show us.  Don’t just bitch that you can’t suck at the tit anymore.

New bands and new companies are not burdened by the major label structure.  They’ve got little overhead, they can give it away for free to sell concert tickets, they’re not married to a political agenda.  Indies are nimble.  They might not have access to terrestrial radio, but is terrestrial radio the dominant format of the future?  Is ANYTHING the dominant format of the future?  By trying to hit homers are the majors ceding the landscape to those who know the value of a single?  And never forget, a bunch of singles will generate more runs than a solo homer.

Interesting times…

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