Like David Bryne stated in his article David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists- and Megastars, “I love music. I always will. It saved my life, and I bet I’m not the only one who can say that.” He’s right. Including myself, I know there are many people who can say whole heartedly that music has saved or changed their life. Growing up, it was apart of my everyday life. I had it surrounding me every possible second, whether I was making it, listening to it, or dancing to it. Today, nothing has changed. If someone ever told me to go a day without it, I know I wouldn’t be able to do it.
I loved researching different labels because in the long run, it’s what I aspire to get involved in. While I looked at Rhymesayers webpage, I found myself diving into all types of independent label companies. I ended up emerging myself into two different labels. I mainly speak about Remeasures Entertainment, but also include information about a local Boulder, Colorado label.
Based in the Twin Cities, my hometown, they specialize in the Hip-Hop genre. The CEO, Brent “Siddiq” Sayers (and others), brought the voice of hip-hop alive in Minneapolis. In an interview by Clyde Smith in 2012, CEO Brent Siddiq on how Rhymesayers Entertainment Builds Indie Power, Siddiq says, “In regards to the d.i.y. movement, we did it naturally…Here you have a core group of motherf* who banded together to do something out of nothing with no help, no outside funds and we created simply for the love and art of it.” David Byrne touched on this idea too. Where artists take measures into their own hands and make their voice heard; self distribution model.
While Rhymesayers label maintained a true indie label, in 2007, they signed a deal with Warner Music Group’s Independent Label Group (Rhymesayers sign deal with Warners, Peter S. Scholtes, March 15, 2007). They teamed up with Alternative Distribution Alliance which allowed them to still maintain control with their label. What I thought was interesting too, was the amount of flexibility they were able to achieve. Most people think that when a label gets “bought out” by another label, they end up loosing most of their control. Siddiq mentions in the same article,”We can keep things as simple as running things through ADA, or bigger records through Warner Distribution.”
The biggest impact, most recently, I believe this label showcases new artists or new album releases is their Soundset festival they put on each year since 2008. Most of my group of friends who are deep in this scene attend it every year. It is an opportunity for the label to get their artists voices out to the public in a “old school” feel. The masses are allowed to follow their favorite artists as well as pick up new favorites.
The label began with pure passion. They still strive to follow the passion and creativity that they started on. Even though they have been able to gain national and international attention, this label has been able to keep it’s authenticity while it keeps growing. “By pushing the boundaries creatively while still maintaining a rigorous touring schedule, significant sales numbers and an ever growing fan base, Rhymesayers Entertainment continues to navigate the long but gratifying road of independent success!”
Just a quick glimpse at a local record label here in Boulder, Colorado, SCI Fidelity. In the “about” section on the website they say their label “features a mind-blowing roster of artists who thrive on immense musicianship, incessant touring, and a lifelong dedication to the live music experience.” Reading this, I was intrigued. I love all sorts of music. I have my preferences but when it comes right down to it, I listen to literally everything. I was curious to see what artists they found.
Again, on their homepage they have an area where you can listen to some EPs of the artists they support. If you like what you hear, you can upload the sample playlist for free as well as buy songs from artists you like. Also, when you go to purchase things, they have an area where you can make donations. I loved what I heard. While there wasn’t much hip-hop, this label did have multiple genres including country, alternative, and electronic. While the differences in genres might scare some people, I looked at it as a good alternative for a label to have. They get to experience and promote musicians of multiple genres which in my mind, equals more voices in the masses. While people might disagree for labels to “cross contaminate” I think if you can do it tastefully and find solid talent, it’s possible.
Rhymesayers zeros in on hip-hop. Since day one, they have been doing everything themselves. Growing up in Minnesota, I personally know there wasn’t a huge music profile. Today, it has grown, but back when Rhymesayers got started, they didn’t have the resources to a major record label in their backyard. The team built this label from the ground up and got their hands in every piece of business because they had to. They took the passion, drive, and inspiration and rode on it.
In a DX interview, Suddiq made it clear that they still keep up with their core group of artists. They are still involved with the artist, booking the shows, doing the merchandise. He explains as well that when they started how crucial it was to get out in the public. Suddiq also spoke of the importance of word of mouth, creating a strong relationship with their fans and when it came to CD distribution, it was in mom and pop shops. Since then, they have created a sturdy name for themselves. And with Target and Best Buy headquarters in Minneapolis, they have created a good relationship with the two companies. In the long run, this has helped them produce and get their name out to the publics ears.
Rhymesayers is a very well known indie label. With emphasis on learning as they go in the beginning, eventually they were brought out into the masses. Now, more people are aware of their name and a lot of it has to do with Atmosphere. Like I said, they started highly independent, but eventually signed onto the Warner Independent label. Here is where we see truth 3 coming in. Everything from the margin moves to the center (Mass Communication – Living in a Media World, 2014 p 20).
Although they have the back up of Warner, the two companies have created a contract which allows them to still have their freedom. This just allows them to have more opportunities for their artists if they need it. Many people have their opinions about them being a “sell-out” but again, they still have their original label and listening to Atmosphere when they first began their career to where they are now, you simply here the growth of the artist; not them conforming to what a specific label would want them to do.
Indie labels face challenges revolving around being heard. Unfortunately, while they support a lot of solid talent, it’s harder for them to mass produce unlike major record labels. But then do they want to? In the movie we watched Before the Music Dies, they made a good point, we’ve become an age of video. Sex and beauty are is becoming a must have before the actual talent. While indie labels might be struggling to be heard, the ones who emerge themselves into local and underground music have been loyal. Using outlets like Spotify and YouTube, they’re able to reach more listeners.
While indie labels might be suffering in some people’s mind, I believe it takes the right team to make it. Take for instance Rhymesayers. They started off of passion and love for the music. While most labels might begin with this, the goal in mind might be to sign on with a major label. They forget the hard work and right publicity it takes. Focusing on the quality and voices of each musician is crucial. Some labels forget about the artists and only want to make it to the big leagues. Because of this, they loose track of their own mission for the label and in my mind, more likely to fail.
With the web at everyones finger tips, it’s easier and cheaper to download an EP or a full album. With SCI Fidelity label, allowing viewers to listen to a handful of artists for free and then if you want more you can purchase it is a good way to go. I don’t know the statistics on their financial plan, I believe by taking this approach, they are able to gather a solid fan bases.
Hearing a musician from a recording is completely different then seeing a live show. Acoustics change with the difference in venue and the stage performance by the artist themselves can make a break a show. While the web might be taking over tangible product, it’s possible for them to still make it. If they merchandise and promote correctly and efficiently word of mouth can do wonders. Having them go on tour, even if it’s local, will do wonders while still bringing in some revenue. While the web might be changing music, there are still ways to keep it alive; the indie labels are what’s keeping it alive.
The Medium as a Whole:
The value of smaller labels is crucial. Major record labels are focused on producing a specific image. If you don’t fit the criteria, it’s difficult to be heard. You have to fit a specific idea that they have in mind. Unfortunately a lot of it has to do with the way you look.
With indie labels though, they WANT to find real talent. Most of them, if not all are dedicated to keeping the music alive and having their voices heard. The goal of indie labels aren’t looking, they’re listening. When it comes to music, hearing is more important than seeing (unless it’s live). But even when it’s live. The pulsating energy that comes out of amp is something that can reach every nerve of your body. Music is hearing and feeling.
If indie labels didn’t exist, our generation of music would be the top 100 hits. Songs written by actual artists while a “perfect face” would be singing it. While I agree with most of the documentary Before the Music Dies, I believe music is going to change either way. The ones who embrace the industry as an art will hold on to beauty of it. While you might have to search hard, it’s out their and indie labels have a lot to do with it. Again, musicians have something to say. The good ones have the ability to bring you to a state where you can feel what they’re feeling. Help you realize there’s more to life than the 10 mile circumference you live in. They can prove to you that you’re not alone in whatever your feeling. If you listen closely, you can hear their heart. Just listen.