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The future music label is…

Mike Linksvayer, June 3rd, 2008

Lucas Gonze, engaged in a blogversation about what music labels really are and what they can be in the future, doesn’t know, but has a suggestion for how a label might figure it out (emphasis added):

Mo bettah, Mr. Hands

Clustering is something labels are already doing. Blue Note is for jazz. Warp is for a particular kind of electronica. Matador, Sub Pop, Metal Blade…

Which brings me back to Ian’s proposal to Guy Hands: reconfigure your labels to be based around affinities and focused narrowly enough to serve roughly the same audiences from release to release. I’ll buy that this is an important thing to do, and the need is not going away. But I’m still skeptical that record companies can cannibalize their current business to do the right thing in this new niche, and in the meantime YouTube, Myspace, CC Mixter, and GYBO are doing fine without them.

So here’s my proposal to Guy Hands as to what he should do with EMI’s new music business.

Creative Commons has posted a Request for Proposals (RFP) regarding the future of the ccMixter.org site, and Victor has posted detailed comments on this. If I were EMI I would step in to operate CC Mixter. It’s a fully functional cluster of music makers with a strong hold on its niche. I don’t know how to monetize it at the scale EMI would need, but I do know that at least EMI would be in the game. Take over and learn how it works. Use the time to gain the institutional skills in managing community. This will take a while, but in a few years the Mixter community will have started to reverse colonize your company. And that’s EMI needs — to absorb the values and skills needed to manage clusters.

Also check out Lucas’ music blog, a very cool mix of the old and new — fresh guitar recordings of sheet music in the public domain (recordings under CC BY-SA) and an experiment in digital music packaging and of control of a musician’s identity on the web.

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