In Defense Of The Record Label

Let’s face it:  labels have a bad rap, at least the major labels.  Ok maybe they did get off track and lose sight of the core values that fueled the golden age of the business, e.g. “artist development” or “caring about the music.”

Hey, everybody makes mistakes.  Business is an endless parade of iteration.  Any human institution is prone to devolution.  But as the smoke clears and we turn the corner into the third age of the entertainment industry, it will become evident – as it was in the beginning – that the labels serve a critical function in the music industry ecosystem.

Without labels you have… MySpace.  Without labels we drown in an endless sea of noise, fueled by every garage band who made their record on, well, GarageBand.  Don’t get me wrong.  You can make a great record on GarageBand.  If you write great songs.  And you know how to play or put sounds together.  And you know how to mix.  And you have a good microphone.  And you can edit yourself.  And I’m just getting started.

There are a ton of “ifs” to making a great self-produced record, and the vast majority of bands out there have not developed the skills, the savvy, or the detached professional self-examination necessary to make a great record without benefit of seasoned, professional guidance.

Enter, the record label.  Or at least, the label of yore.  The archetypical label would find you like a great detective, pull you out of your bar gig, give you a paycheck to do your dream job, hook you up with a mentor producer to hone your craft and release to the world the best possible version of you that could be.

You would lean on their years of experience in the trenches, learning the ropes, building the relationships that would get you on the radio or that opening spot on the tour that would break you out.  You would gladly siphon their relationships and let them take the risk (and the fall), and you would gladly cash their checks.

Without them you were just another dreamer hanging on to the hope that “one day” you would “get signed” and your troubles would be over.

“Getting signed” used to be a little more like a lottery ticket than it is today.  Smart bands today don’t want to get signed, they want to do it themselves and keep all their money.  Smart bands today can do that, because the distribution pipes have opened up, and labels don’t promote anymore anyway, at least like they used to.

So who’s fault is it that the business got off track; is it the fault of the labels, who got puffed up full of hubris, or complacent with their success, or distracted by concerns over profits; is it the fault of the fans, who looted the labels’ profits after the digital revolution, storming the Bastille and screaming “off with their heads;” is it the fault of the artists, who cared more about making “it” than making “music,” and failed to dig in deep on their craft until it was undeniably great…?

The industry had become a dysfunctional hot mess.  Of course this is going to blow up and reset itself.

We think we are well into the re-build, and we like where it’s headed.  The only sustainable solution is one where everybody wins:  artist – label – publisher – distributor – fan, and Gyroskope hopes to play a part in engineering the solution for the new planet.


Gyroskope Press: Huffington Post

The Huffington Post’s Mike Ragogna sat down to talk with Gyroskope founder, Todd Smith, about all things Gyroskope. While they covered a wide range of topics, the interview started off by Smith telling the story of Gyroskope’s origin. Let’s ‘listen in,’ shall we?

Mike Ragogna: Todd, what is the origin of Gyroskope?

Todd Smith: My background is in the music business, first as an artist, then as a producer and indie label owner, so I basically lived through the transition, from the time when people paid for music to the time when music became free. I’m not down on free; free is great, but eventually, you hit a wall. If nobody ever replenishes the stream, eventually it will dry up. Artists and producers need to make money in order to do what they do, which is bring us music and art and stuff that makes the world a better place. So Gyroskope is a possible solution to the problem of what is the best way for independent content producers to monetize their work, given that the paradigm for digital content consumption has shifted from paid to free?

I think there is a feeling among music fans that, it’s okay to share these files because the artist isn’t going to see any of the money anyway. And you know what, they’re right. I think fans want to support the artists they love, and Gyroskope is built to facilitate that direct transactional relationship. I think there is a feeling among artists that, if I work my ass off and get a hit, why should the guy who owns the pipeline get most of the money? And you know what, they’re right too, and Gyroskope is built for that as well. Gyroskope gets the same small monthly fee no matter how much you sell.

MR: There has been a lot of emphasis in the initial phase on music, but how can others monetize their assets using Gyroskope?

TS: Gyroskope is for anybody that needs to sell a video. It might be a music video or your feature film, but it might also be a school play for a fundraiser. It might be a keynote speech at a conference or graduation. It might be a lecture or a virtual tour of an historic landmark. No matter what it is, we want to be the YouTube for independent content producers that need to not only distribute, but also sell their work.

MR: How do you compete with a YouTube that’s free or a Netflix that has an established value for their billing? In other words, why would someone use Gryoskope over other platforms?

TS: Content producers can’t sell their videos through YouTube, so in that sense, YouTube isn’t a competitor. Netflix is more of an aggregator or a middle-man, meaning it’s not really a platform that allows producers to have a direct transactional relationship with their audience. There are some other options, such as Amazon CreateSpace, which can take over half of the sale. In addition, we worked hard to create a high-end user experience for producer and fan. It’s more of a premium environment without ads. For all these reasons, we humbly believe that Gyroskope is the best option.

Read the full interview here!