Why 'Johnny' Record Label (Can't Come Out to Play)
Remember that kid down the street who always seemed
to have the best of all worlds...money, clothes, got to go to
Disneyland every summer while you stayed at home riding
your bicycle and playing other dangerous yard games not
nearly as exciting? He was also blessed with all of the
latest neat toys that you would give your left arm and right
leg to own.
That kid was probably also christened with a name such
as Heathcliffe O'Reilly III, with some of the neighborhood
girls hoping to marry him so that they could then shop
endlessly...for life (sorry for the insinuated sexism, ladies).
But, Heathcliffe also had a dark side to him, sort of like
that other nice and sweet kid, Damian, in "The Omen."
For, perchance, you were fortunate enough to play with
all those neat toys that were affordably exclusive to
Heathcliffe, or play games with him, it was readily
understood that Heathcliffe would emerge the ultimate
victor, regardless of how horrible his team participation.
And, when someone could stand this one-sided situation
no longer without voicing his opinion, Heathcliffe would
sport that infamous but deadly grin that signaled game's
end and said, "See suckers? I know you couldn't take it
for long!" This resulted in his gathering his belongings
and heading for home, leaving you and your friends to
your own boring devices.
Worst of all, Heathcliffe, along with everyone else, readily
recognized how sorry a player he was, along with his
incredible need to control. You probably did not realize it
at the time, but that experience was your first introduction
to the advantage of high-tech versus low-tech.
'Johnny' Record Label has always been the music
industry's "Heathcliffe," but with one exception today...
'Johnny' cannot figure out how all the other kids in the
neighborhood (unsigned recording artists) can now
afford and play with the same high-tech toys that he
does, and win the game without him. Plus, they are
much better at it and it frustrates 'Johnny' to no end
that, while he can still smirk, he cannot take away his
toys and head homeward.
And, if you stop and listen for a moment, after nightfall,
when all the kids have left the playground for the day,
you can hear 'Johnny' lying in his bed, while going from
a moderate sobbing, to screaming and wailing at the
top of his lungs..."They are not supposed to be able to
have fun without me!"
This reminds me of one of my all time favorite villains...
"Dr. Miguelito Loveless" from the television series,
"The Wild Wild West." While Dr. Loveless was one of
the most brilliant villains ever to grace the screen, the
irony was his childlike responses whenever something
went awry. And something, eventually, always went awry.
Major record labels are truly out of options because, in
large part, the Internet and the ready availability of
its vast amount of "how-to" information that was once
either cloaked in secrecy behind steel doors, or was
for $ale, is now exposed to the masses and there for
the taking. And, I cannot state how wonderful it is to
see the 'Net married with affordable recording
technology once considered by the majors to be a
fluke or fad that would end.
Add to that, the fact that many of their long-term,
high-dollar recording artists are starting to 'see the
light' and leave the labels upon the expiration of their
contracts. Actually, they have wanted to make this
move for years, however, no system was in place until
now that allowed them to do so.
And, while the "once powers that were" attempt to
shut down the radio streaming access to indies, while
also attempting to work in conjunction with large radio
networks hell-bent on controlling the airwaves through
station buyouts and the implementation of national
playlists, again, there is no shortage of information,
outlets and resources for indies, even on the smallest of
scales. That is, if they simply take some time to self-
educate, review, plan and execute their options well.
After all, when all of the excessive and unnecessary
financial padding that is a long time staple of the majors
is stripped away, it is easy to see how, when executed
properly and efficiently, the successful business aspect
and profit$ of independent releases can both readily
and quickly be realized. And, I might add, without a staff
of thousands of useless hangers on.
Now, some people may say that I am completely
biased in support of musicians controlling their works
and having the final 'say-so' regarding any degree of
execution of said works. And, they would be 100%
correct. And, I need cite no more reason than an
historical emotionally and financially damaging
campaign that has been wielded upon unsuspecting
recording artists ever since someone got the bright
idea to "help" musicians "make it." In fact, there now
exists psychiatrists and psychologists who specialize
in helping musicians overcome this particularly unique
and painful dilemma.
I will say it once more...unsigned musicians and
recording artists should take utter and complete
advantage of the shaken, traumatic and fractionalized
"deregulation" that is occurring in today's music industry.
As a result, I would like nothing better than to see the
creation of an organization that operates similarly to a
major label, in terms of proactive marketing and
promotion, yet, is completely owned and operated by
active, real musicians, and not some number crunchers
or lawyers who, not only cannot distinguish between an
eighth note or quarter rest or, more importantly, do not
understand the psyche of musicians, and could not care
And, today, I believe that there are indeed enough
business savvy artists to, at least, get this process
underway. Even better, is the idea of musicians, who
now run successful music businesses, joining together
to create this unique element. I believe it is time for
just such an alternative. Who knows? In an effort to
realize this dream, I may just consider starting such a
musician-run organization myself.