Monday, March 23, 2009

Indie Labels Try and Keep The Faith at SXSW

One panel from last week's SXSW music conference was entitled "Indie Labels Keep the Faith," though by all accounts the sentiment was fairly grim. “The decline in indie retail has continued in a free-fall," said Bloodshot Records co-owner Nan Warshaw. "Everything you’ve heard [about the troubles of major labels], it’s probably worse.”

Todd Martens of the LA Times reports:
Fellow panel member Howard Greynolds, formerly of veteran Chicago label Touch and Go Records, said the disconnect between the labels' needs and those of retailers were becoming greater than ever and that the economics for independent labels had shifted.

While in the past indies could thrive by selling 20,000 to 30,000 copies of an album, "what has happened is that it is now 5,000 [sales] or less, or 50,000 or more," Greynolds said. "The middle is gone."
The panel also featured Rounder Records owner Ken Irwin, Barsuk Records' head Josh Rosenfeld and Portia Sabin, who oversees Kill Rock Stars.

Martens adds, "Yet there's no shortage of music available. Irwin said the number of official releases tops 8,500 annually, and a record-setting 1,900 bands are in Austin for SXSW."

This is the challenge facing labels: there is no shortage of music and no shortage of artists who need the services of a label. All the while, the actual opportunities for profit have shrunk. So ... how does a label keep the faith?

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