Special Section on Independent Labels

Special Section on Independent Labels
From Vol. 3 No. 1, 2004

Independent record labels since their earliest days have been about putting out great music that doesn’t necessarily have huge mass appeal or a ready-made consumer market for it. Such labels give a voice to bands and musicians that would not otherwise be documented, and often are the first to put out whole styles and sounds that would never have seen the light of day if we left record production to the risk-averse major labels.
You can’t really blame the majors: in big business, you normally don’t take risks unless you really have to. And just like the largest players in other big industries, the ideal situation for major labels is to have fewer and fewer artists sell more and more units, thus minimizing costs and investment while maximizing profits. The majors are happy relying on artists like the Stones, the Eagles, and Pink Floyd whose occasional tours promote further sales of albums that came out 30 years ago. They’re also happy milking all they can out of carefully chosen and groomed new stars like Britney or Avrile, whose albums are produced by committees of hit-writers and whose image changes are dictated by market research.
But there will always be people who want to hear something different, and artists looking for a way to reach those people who want something different. This is why there will always be independent labels out there working to bring that music to people in whatever limited way they can.
The labels interviewed here cover various styles, but all share the same logistical problems of getting their music out, promoting the records and their artists, and trying to keep all the bills paid in the meantime.