What Terry McBride And Brian Message’s Polyphonic “Label” Means To Your Future In Music

clash.jpgThe music world is abuzz with the news that two of the most progressive thinkers in the business along with some others have teamed up to start a new “label” with a new model on funding and artist ownership. One of the concepts that this label will be employing is outsourcing. Artists will receive a $300K investment and then hire out  outside PR, distribution, booking etc. As opposed to the old major label model of doing much of this in-house.

When I worked at an indie in the 90′s I once heard the saying that we weren’t much different than “having a credit card with some distribution and a PR department.” This saying wasn’t entirely true back then since distribution was hard to come by before the Internet and we held the key to access many things bands could not get on their own. As time progresses this saying is becoming all the more true of what many indie labels are becoming these days.

With that said the model Polyphonic is adopting of investors and outsourcing will be a viable one for everyone in the music industry to learn from. After the jump we will discuss what bands and music industry figures should prepare for with this new announcement and some of the new business models we can see emerge in the new music model.

New Music Model
A recent Billboard Journal of Dead Music Ideas analysis of Polyphonic’s business model revealed that this will be for bands with established followings. A band that has probably built a following on a large indie or major but has since been freed from the restraints of their contract will be their ideal candidates to get involved with. What about the other 99% of bands out there? There is PLENTY room for everyone to adopt this model’s ideas and people have been doing so for years. Getting investors for your music is nothing new but may become all the more common for bands big and small.

Obviously artists can expect to see more fair and reasonable royalty agreements as the label becomes obsolete but there will be many places to still split the pie in order to get ahead. Artists will still need management and label head duties for advice and leg work which may come in many forms as consultants or traditional management. Lawyers will still have to sign off on agreements made for most everything and take their subsequent cut. Marketing becomes all the more important everyday as the playing field levels and it is harder to get noticed so PR and marketing firms are going to be more and more in demand. You will still need kick-ass tour booking and support probably at a percentage. There is also going to still need to be money, if you get added to a large tour there will need to be a promotions budget as well as money for emergencies like van/equipment robberies.

New Business
With “labels” becoming more like managers or even consultants – what we can prepare to see is a boom in more private PR, Booking agents, Merch fulfillment and Steet Team/Tour promotions companies. Once many people looking to get in to the industry hoped to work for a label it is going to become increasingly more important to look for work in private firms or form your own. Artists are going to have very different needs in every field and need different expertises as well as pricing models. We will surely see the emergence of all in one private labels that will handle everything from video/radio promotion/aggregation on to PR and marketing. Don’t be surprised to see booking agents turn into full tour support companies that also do the job of street team assembly and buying local ads for a higher percentage of tour revenue.

The Fat Trim
The biggest change we will see in this industry – as the new model emerges – is the trimming of the fat. No longer will you have 6 people in a graphics department sitting on AIM all day reading Gawker while pretending to work. With less share of the pie to go around and the label no longer being the first rung on the ladder to get paid, there will be no more room for excess. The leveling of the playing field will see those with strong work ethics rewarded and those without them trimmed like fat and tossed in the trash.

We will begin to see a new found frugality in the industry. As it becomes the artists dollars funding the excesses directly – they will see that dinner at Chateau Marmont may be a great picture to send back to mom and dad, but it isn’t quite as fun when the buck stops with you and it is out of your pocket. In my opinion this can be great for a industry that has gotten way to materialistic and indulgent over the years. A welcome change that will prove to show that the major label excesses of the past were part of the reason for low profit margins and constant artist shafting when it came time to pay dividends.
Start Today
Why wait for this model to emerge? Form your own tour promotions company! Don’t sign a label friendly 3 record deal with some label when by the time you deliver your 2nd LP the industry will be a whole new game.

It is becoming all the more important that you will need to manage your band and run a tight ship. The days where you could be the type of act that hoped that one day you would meet some manager who would take you on a magic carpet ride to success and solve your problems are coming to an end. As this model emerges you are going to need to be more and more self-sufficient and your band will be a business. With large staffed labels disappearing you will need to build a team both in your group and outside that will help to promote. The fat will be trimmed and with some smart moves we will see artists finally get much of the share they always deserved by having the worker bees work for them and not the other way around.

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.