Are You Listening? Question 3

Several weeks ago I started a series where I provided my readers a way to express their view/thoughts on Southern Gospel music.  Let artists/industry folk know how you feel about certain aspects of Southern Gospel music.

The third question in the series is this; Do major record labels in Southern Gospel music matter?  Why?  Why not?

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4 thoughts on “Are You Listening? Question 3

  1. Back in the days of physical media, yes, they absolutely mattered. Skylite, Word, Sing, Heartwarming (later Benson)….they played key roles in getting music out to the masses. Of course, that was back when brick-and-mortar stores actually stocked a “Gospel/Religious” section. I remember picking up Gold City’s 10th Anniversary album on cassette at Record Town in a local mall. You can’t find that now (the album, the section, or even the store!).

    Today, however, I think record labels/companies are outdated in general, let alone in SG music. Sure, they afford industry connections to radio and promotions, but there are so few terrestrial radio outlets for SG music now (and what does exist has such a small reach, comparably speaking) that it’s almost pointless. Besides, any indie artist can produce their own album, pay CDBaby for distribution, and pay a radio promoter such as Vertical Sky, Butler Music Group, et al, to put their song on a radio CD to put in front of DJ’s.

    That being said, just looking at some of the label releases over the last year or so, you can definitely see a pattern for success. The last three Crossroads albums I got for review were produced by Jeff Collins in their in-house studio with many of the same personnel (right down to the graphic design). That’s not to say that they don’t have a variety, but they obviously have found a groove that works.

    I’ve always likened the current music record label system to the old Hollywood Studio System. Studios had actors under contract, would fund the films, and promote them entirely….until independent filmmakers started getting mainstream attention in the 1960’s. That same independent mindset is becoming increasingly easy for musicians with digital distribution.

    1. Does an artist make any more money from a major record label, than if they do it all independently; with the few added benefits of a record label? I would use the Whisnants as the best example of being successful without the aid of a major record label. They’ve recorded how many #1 hits without the promotion of a major label?

      1. The only way I know of for an artist to make many money from a label is through their recording advance (if any). If they get, for example, $20,000 for their next record, they will have to wait until their record sales break $20,000 in profit before they ever see a penny. If CD’s bring in $5 profit per unit sold (and that’s just for example, not counting promotion, royalties, etc.), they have to sell around 4,000 units. All that money goes to the label. Then anything above and beyond that is paid to the artist.

        Granted that’s a very simplistic approach. The artist could bring the album in under budget and pocket the remainder, but that would still count against any royalties.

        If an artist pays for an album on spec (on their own), then they could offer to lease the master to a label for a set price. The artist gets their money back, and the artist and label may split royalties.

        In either case, the label takes a gamble by forking out money that they hope to make back. Depending on the agreement, however, the artist may be on the hook if the album doesn’t break even, however, so if the label spends $20,000 on an album and only sells $15,000 worth, the artist may owe the label $5,000. Again, each contract is different.

        For an independent artist, all costs are absorbed directly. The artist fronts the cost of the album themselves, then recoups the money directly. Deals can be made for distribution and/or radio, but it’s at the artist’s cost (such as CDBaby, which distributes digitally for a flat fee plus a percentage per unit sold). If the artist is successful, they will recoup their cost and then some.

  2. Although digital distribution has changed the SG market, I still see a lot of people with physical product. With the majority of the SG audience more comfortable with traditional radio and CDs, I expect labels to exist for the foreseeable future. The songwriting talent is where I notice the big difference between Daywind/Crossroads/StowTown and independent artists.

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