What do record labels need to do to survive and thrive?

What do record labels need to do to survive and thrive?
Here's what they should do
34% (42 votes)
They're simply doomed
62% (78 votes)
I have no idea
4% (5 votes)
Total votes: 125

CD sales are down, online sales and streaming services are inching forward, and most record labels are in a world of hurt. What do record labels need to do to survive and thrive?

chris's picture

Record labels should remember that they are, in essence, music labels. Stereophile's own John Marks provides the essential recipe in this month's "As We See It: Data Density Eats Tweaks for Breakfast"! Forsake DRM, forget voodoo, get to the 21st century, get real, deliver content and content: uncompressed, uncompromised, high-quality downloads at reasonable prices. And allow, nay, urge Apple to sell your 24/96 stuff through iTunes. The demand is there.

m's picture

Here's a thought. Bring back the A&R folks who knew and loved music and stop trying to force formulaic, bland crap down the public's throat. And also, your corrupt, greedy business model is kaput for good. Adapt to the new technology and have better product if you want to survive.

Oliver's picture

They must offer real, interesting music (not mainstream doodle), plus good record quality, nice packaging, high-quality booklet. I buy at least two CDs per month.

Jim Green's picture

They need to fire their talent scouts and find ones who are music lovers, not bean counters. They need to provide hard product. This would require settling down on a format that has more than a five year lifespan. I would suggest a Red Book/SACD combo. And stick with it. Very few people are going to pay for file downloads. I have vinyl that is 45 years old, but sounds awful. I have CDs 20 years old that sound the same as the day I bought them (actually, new player advances make these sound better than ever) I bought about $100 worth of high-rez downloads six months ago and they are gone, due to computer failure. Never again.

Ken Motamed's picture

They should release more CDs with attractive packaging, something you cannot get with downloads. They should keep lowering prices. They should not stick it to their best customers by releasing overpriced multi-disc reissues and remasters when one disc will do.

Paul Mainwaring's picture

Technology moves on and very often we have no say in things, eg, vinyl/CD. The Internet will have an impact on an ever-increasing number of aspects of society, we just have to accept it and move on. There will be winners and losers. Record labels are some of the losers—such is life.

Earth Quake's picture

Include small posters and the words of the songs like records use to have and this will increase the want factor for youth!

ThinkBrown's picture

The idea of a "record label" has become obsolete with the invention of music downloads. A musician or band can sell their music online and keep ~70% of the revenue, compared to CD sales, in which an artist only makes ~10%. From a sales standpoint it makes sense to sell direct through iTunes or Amazon.

Mike Molinaro's picture

Develop real talent and sell it for a reasonable price in all formats.

Grant in Toronto's picture

They need to support full-resolution digital downloads. And high-quality analog mastering of studio recordings. And issuing this stuff on LP.

Allan's picture

I buy more CDs than ever because I invested a few years ago in a nice system, at least by my standards. The reason is that CD is still better quality than is available from the major record label download services. I also have the freedom to choose the best codec that is compatible. I play everything from files I've ripped myself. Record labels need to offer DRM-free lossless downloads, save the money on the physical media, and accept that people who pirate can't be stopped—and remove the limitations and loss of quality for buying legitimate downloads. FLAC should be the standard.

Johannes Turunen, Sweden's picture

Lower prices would help.

RB's picture

It is unfortunate, but downloads and streaming seem to be here to stay; however, without a large financial backing there can be no marketing and no grand-scale stage performances. So go ahead and cut costs on engineering and studio-quality recordings—they're just going to get squashed into 128kbp anyway—and focus your energies more on the publicity and touring factors.

Nodaker's picture

Give the people what they want: good music at reasonable prices. And please stop compressing the sound for radio play. Newsflash: radio is dying too!

OvenMaster's picture

Stop selling garbage!

Mike Marston's picture

1) Return to creative artist development rather than demographic marketing. 2) Hard to believe I'm saying this in 2010, but embrace downloading, especially high-rez. 3) Add value to downloads. Band related paraphernalia, ticket lotteries, etc.

Nathan's picture

Are the records labels really in trouble? The good ones? Smaller and mid-sized labels are doing a great job keeping vinyl going, with free MP3 downloads to boot. The major companies produce dreck, and the sooner they disappear the better. I'm more worried about the record stores surviving.

Harold's picture

What they should have done a long long time ago—cut the cost of a CD by 2/3. When they came out in 1983, they were touted as a very cheap disc that could be sold for a song yet give a profit. The record companies got greedy and eventually consumers got options that didn't bode well for the companies. Do what Best Buy found out in the '80s, sell cheaper and make it up on volume. We all know how cheap it is to burn a CD vs vinyl or tape, so do it. While at it, not just CDs, maybe high-rez on disc as well? They could sell data discs for transfer to your device. Downloads are great but I also like a physical backup—that's a good in for them. Low price and an impulse buy while at Wallie World might be just the thing.

Humberto's picture

Lower prices on physical media, and even lower prices in digital downloads. I would love that they also did all of their releases in high-resolution (even if they're only available in digital downloads).