Two former record store owners have offered a stinging indictment of the RIAA and the major labels in today's NY Times. Every day offers more and more evidence that these once powerful companies are headed towards certain doom. I don't take this news as an uninterested bystander. Numerous friends and colleagues of mine - and yours truly as well - who have worked for the major labels over the past 5-10 years have either been laid off or had to work under incredibly difficult circumstances. As all the major labels have succumbed to the lure of Wall Street and the daily chase to boost the stock price the day-to-day business of signing great artists, then sticking by them and developing them into self-sustaining acts, has all but vanished. Consolidation of major catalogs of master recordings was supposed to fuel the business. Catalog business is down and down big. New releases are down big.
Who holds the advantage as these record companies (and these major label groups also own many of the major music publishers as well) face increased pressure to make deals and monetize their assets as CD sales plummet and download sales plateau? Any company looking to do business with the labels from a licensing perspective. That's right - your brand.
Brands can now give real pushback. In the past brands may have thought "Well, I guess the price to license this track for this TV spot [or movie soundtrack or branded compilation, etc...] is what it is, and if the brand/agency needs it to execute the creative vision/marketing campaign, then so be it." No longer. Remember this the next time you need to negotiate with a record label or music publisher - they need you now more than you need them. Press the advantage. Be a savvy negotiator. Know there are many labels and tracks that can be used to execute a creative vision, and let the labels and publishers know that you know it. As hard-nosed as it may seem tell the labels you want lower costs - and you want the primo repertoire - quit trying to foist the baby bands the label itself won't be supporting after the first single. Tell them they have to get their respective houses in order and streamline their licensing processes, and that you want to be able to license any track they own. Demand it!!!
Throw the brushback pitch. Anyone still working in the record industry wants only two things to elongate their careers: 1) some high profile deals, and 2) the credit that they brought that deal in. And even that isn't enough these days. I know a guy who's led a division to double digit growth every year he's been with a particular company and he's constantly under pressure to do more - and no other division can even come close to matching the success of his team. But still - no respect at all. If this is how the industry treats the solid performers, then feel free to treat the industry moguls, the guys who have steered the business into its current dire straits, with the disdain they deserve... and take them to the cleaners while you're at it.