I am not a gun guy. I hear rappers talking about them all the time though. Using the “gun talk” references from many rappers, I am going to make an analogy of sorts regarding the record industry.
If the Big 4 major labels (Universal Music Group, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group) were guns, they would be some sort of machine gun like a Tommy Gun or an assault rifle like an AK-47. In this piece, I would like to use the Tommy Gun analogy as I feel like that is the best imagery of their current effectiveness. Think about it – you’re watching a Prohibition-era movie with the bad guy slinging a Tommy Gun rapidly firing in the general direction of the police. The bad guys hits a couple officers, but he rattles of 100 rounds and only 3 out of 20 die. As this is a movie of course, the bad guys always lose eventually. It is a bit ineffective, if you ask me, much like the major labels today.
Now independent labels are handguns. The heavier the acts they carry, the higher caliber of the gun they use. They do not shoot as much, but in the hands of a marksman they can be deadly with fewer shots. Much like Eddie Murphy’s characters in the infamously hilarious scene in Harlem Nights.
Yep, much like that. Arsenio & Company are the major labels and Eddie Murphy is an indie label. In today’s music climate, the labels that will succeed are the ones that actually have a real connection with their consumer base. The major labels may have the luxury of having large amounts of capital to market their “products,” but their consumers tend of only know of the product not where it is derived. I doubt in a poll of 100 people could more than 3 people tell you what label the Black Eyed Peas were on; even though, they have the #1 single in the country. Heck, I actually care about that kind of stuff and I barely know.
You may not tend to care about labels, but you should when it comes to music. Here are a list of .22 caliber and even Glock 9mm pistols that are firing some deadly shots these days:
Barsuk has brought us Death Cab for Cutie, Rilo Kiley and my current favorite band, Ra Ra Riot.
Stones Throw is the label that pays Madlib, J Dilla and various private label funk re-releases. The recent “sonic boom” for them may be the release of the Mayer Hawthorne album though. Keep your eyes open for Stones Throw (always).
What doesn’t Ninja Tune do? With 4 sublabel imprints in tow, Ninja Tune always has something choice on deck from Spank Rock to Kid Koala.
This Glock 9mm has released some of my favorite indie rock records. Get familiar. They still put out good product today.
Just like Merge Records, killer records have come out of Matador and they continue to do so.
What are some of your favorite indie labels?