Can Independent Labels Survive Today's Music Industry?【BLOG】
Hi everyone, this is YOHIO.
So I wanted to try this function as a way of writing longer blog posts and sharing them with all of you. I have been on many blog platforms over the years, but I have felt it has been difficult to have a form of central point where everything is collected.
Maybe I will start my own website in the future, but for now, I'm going to try out blogging a bit here on the KEIOS website.
I hope you don't mind.
If you have been following me and the KEIOS team these last few months, you may have noticed that we are working really hard right now. A lot of releases. I mean, a lot.
We have been releasing more music since the start of 2020 than we have in many years combined. So why is that? I have gotten a lot of comments and questions about how it's possible for us to keep such a high pace.
It's quite simple, actually. We just get in the work and keep on going. The music industry is constantly changing, and it's changing faster and faster. As an artist, a band or a record label, you have to keep up or you will get left behind. That's just how it works.
This industry is not the same as it was even just two years ago. It will probably be a lot different from now in a year too.
Instead of complaining about everything being better in the past it's paramount to stay positive in trying to find new approaches and testing out ideas. Without this creativity and lust for innovation you will not succeed in the world of entertainment and show business.
A problem that I see everyday, and that we had in the past as well, is the idea of the perfect timing. Surprise, surprise - it doesn't exist. But we all want to believe that it does, because it gives us the excuse to wait instead of taking immediate action.
Now don't get me wrong, planning for the future is important. Having a strategy in place is better than wandering about without any direction. You have to know where you are going, or at least where you want to end up in the end if everything turns out the way you want it.
Having said that, you still need to be flexible. Nothing turns out the way it was supposed to, or at least very rarely. But that doesn't always mean that it's a bad thing. Things may turn out to be better than you expected, just not in the way you expected them.
There are many roads leading to the same destination.
To put this in the context of KEIOS ENTERTAINMENT's recent burst of releases, it's all about what I just wrote. We're not waiting for the perfect timing. Opportunities come and go, but if you're not actively seeking them out they will pass you by without you even noticing they were there in the first place.
Some people have the misconception that we are mass-producing music just to spam out new songs every month. Firstly, that's all a matter of perspective. Secondly, it's not quite true.
For those of you not familiar with how the music industry works, let me explain something to put this in context. Until recently, the most common release tempo for an artist was to put out one single every 3 months. Even that was considered to be a quick pace. Most artists would release no more than 3 singles per year, accompanied by an album or some EP once in a while.
However, considering (mostly) younger people's attention spans are dropping at a worrying rate, the idea of releasing one song every 3 months is getting too slow.
This doesn't have to do with the attention span issue exclusively, though.
The music industry is getting more and more saturated by the hour, with millions of artists releasing songs every week. This is a very new concept, due to the advent of streaming services. This was not an issue even 10 years ago.
Since releasing music is getting easier, basically allowing anyone to upload a song they made in their bedroom to all the streaming services in the world with a single click, for free, it's saturating the market tremendously. Even recording and making your own songs have never been cheaper or easier than it is today.
In a way, that's a positive thing. Anyone can potentially reach an audience in the whole world even though they never paid for studio time and never signed a contract with a record label. Isn't that great?
Well, both yes and no. The positive thing is that potentially anyone can "make it", even without a label or management backing them up. The negative thing is that because of that very reason, millions of people are pushing out songs, making it even harder for anyone without a label to actually make it for real. There are just too many trying - saturating the market and making the percentage of people who make it lower and lower.
To quote my father, and this is actually a great way to see it: "It's like writing a book, then putting it in a shelf in the world's largest library, not telling anyone about it and still hoping that someone will find it and make it into a best-seller."
If you look at it that way, you will understand what I'm trying to say.
There is so much music to listen to nowadays. Extreme amounts of music. So what should you do, as an artist, band, or record label, to break through the noise?
That's the constant question. The music industry, even the major labels, are struggling right now. It's just too saturated. How do you break through?
As an independent record label, without multi-million dollar funding like the big major labels, it gets even harder to make things work. But does that mean that you should give up? No, I don't think so. There's always a way.
Going back to the subject, let's talk about how things used to work.
In the past, there was a reason behind why the pace of releases was so "slow" compared to now. We call it the lifecycle of a song. Back in the days, radio was a very important force of the music industry. Radio dictated what became a hit and what didn't. For that reason, when you released a new single, you had to try getting it to play on the radio. You had to wait and see if the major stations would put the song on rotation, meaning that they play the song several times a day for a number of weeks - the more plays a day, and the more weeks, the bigger the hit. Once you had the privilege of getting a song on heavy rotation on the radio, you wouldn't release a new single until that song's lifecycle was dying out. The work of getting the radio to play your song could take a long time too, that's why you didn't try releasing another song until you gave it your best shot at promoting it to the radio stations.
The second reason for the "slower" release pace was that you had to press physical CD's. That costs a lot of money and is a big risk, especially for smaller independent artists. If you released a single every month back then, you would go bankrupt in a heartbeat.
With the advent of streaming services, the cost of pressing CD's started to disappear.
Nowadays, there are very few countries left that still sell a lot of CD's, and even in those countries, like Japan, the sales are decreasing rapidly every year.
This is also both good and bad. The good thing is that you erase the expenses of pressing CD's. The bad thing is that CD's have a much larger ROI (return of investment) than streaming does. If an artist or a label paid for studio time to record the song, paid the producers for writing it, and paid someone to mix and master the track, you will have to stream a lot to even cover the expenses. A lot more than people not active in this industry thinks.
A million streams does not actually amount in a lot of money. And it's not easy getting a million streams if you're not backed up by the streaming service itself.
The good thing is, if you're getting a real hit, let's say it's streaming about 500,000,000, the ROI is greater than if you were selling CD's.
The chances of those numbers are very, very small, however, and exclusively for the world's biggest artists backed by major labels with million dollar marketing budgets.
For smaller artists, it's easier than ever to release music. The competition, however, is much greater.
A few years ago, a smaller, local band could cover their expenses and sometimes even make a living on selling CD's and merch at their shows. They could be working their way up without a label, not even selling the CD's in shops, and still make it work for them.
That's not the case anymore. Smaller artists cannot make a living through streaming.
That's the negative thing about how the industry works today.
Having said all of this, just because we release a lot more music now doesn't mean that the quality will be any lower than it used to. Before, we worked on the songs, finished them, and then waited a long time between releases, for some of the reasons I've been writing about in this post. The songs were just lying around, waiting for the best timing to get released.
The only difference now is that we are releasing the songs, one at a time, without waiting for the perfect timing that doesn't exist anyways. Radio is not that big anymore. The lifecycle of a song is shorter than it used to be. That's why we decided to try out releasing music in a faster pace. And so far, you guys seem to appreciate the volume of music coming out. That means a lot to us.
The time and energy spent on the production of every song, however, has not changed at all. We're just letting you hear them faster.
Since the industry is changing, we as artists and music industry professionals are doing everything we can to survive and come up with new ideas. It's not always easy keeping up, but with hard work and dedication you will always get rewarded in the end.
The biggest reward is that you are always with us. What sets us apart from many other record labels is that we have such dedicated supporters.
On behalf of everyone here at KEIOS ENTERTAINMENT, I just want to thank you all for sticking with us through fire and water. We're doing our very best to bring you quality entertainment.
Thank you for growing with us. This is just the beginning, no matter how the industry keeps on changing. We'll be here fighting.
All my love,