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360 Music Deals: Investing in the experience

I just read a November New York Times article about 360, or "multiple rights," deals. It's an emerging music business model in which labels invest in bands for the longer haul. It works like this: Labels bankroll more cash upfront, work more heavily in artist development, and in exchange get a bigger share of artist earnings. Traditionally, labels made money from artists based on album sales, but with 360 deals, artists share earnings beyond albums (a reaction to rapidly declining album sales) - including concerts, merch, and other revenue. For new artists, these deals are supposed to provide for a little more breathing room to grow into stardom. Paramore seems to be the flagship example of a 360-deal-gone-right. Their label, Fueled by Ramen (an Atlantic Records partner and once-home of the ex-Impossibles from Austin Texas, a band I loved dearly in high school...but that's neither here nor there), apparently nursed them along for a long time before they hit it. In an MTV article, their lead singer said this about the relationship:
I feel like we have a new kind of partnership with our label... ...a lot of bands on indie labels, they're working their way up, but it's slow...and so they don't get the chances we got. We spent two years playing to, like, anywhere from nine to 20 kids, and it grew gradually over those two years, and it got to where it is today because of that. But I don't feel like a lot of bands get that leniency, that patience, to just wait around for that big single to happen.
I'm split: Half of me is really skeptical, and half of me likes it. It certainly feels better than hearing about labels dropping artists after almost no time because album sales didn't hit the mark. This new model almost ends up treating the album as a marketing piece for the band's full experience, which is really going back to how the Grateful Dead did business. They gave away their music, rocked out, and merchandised. I guess the bottomline is that success depends on the label - for it to work, labels have to follow through on their promise to nurture talent. I just hope "nurture talent" doesn't end up being another way to say "convince the talent to become a sell-out hit-factory." What do you think?

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