The Destruction Of The Music Economy

17/03/2011

“Institubes (2003 – 2011)” an obituary signed by Jean-René Étienne and Émile Shahidi, founder and A&R of the high-profile Parisian record label, 16 March 2011:

So, the next Institubes record is not coming soon. And I can’t tell you how much it pains me to write these words. We’ve released many records in our (almost) eight years of existence and managed to introduce a number of excellent artists to the world. Good times were had and accolades garnered. I’m not so conceited nor high on my own supply that I’d try and talk up our “legacy” but I don’t think that in five, ten or twenty years I’ll look at our discography and cringe. Now I get to tell you, Institubes fans, friends and allies, that we have to wrap it up. Party’s over.

I could write ten pages about the realities and difficulties of the music business but you’ll only get about two paragraphs and not much whining. We never lived those halcyon days some industry elders tend to rave about. We always moved through a post-apocalyptic, terminally pauperized landscape, complete with irradiated A&R zombies and mutated eyeless bloggers. It’s always been a bit of an uphill battle. But it got worse and worse. At first it was fun to figure out ways to get people to check out our music. But once that’s done and you have something resembling an audience, it becomes apparent that this is not really your job. Your job is to reconcile the public with the very idea of buying records. All the power to you if you can bear it.

We’re closing shop because the operation is losing too much money, this much is clear. Most of what we could have done to prevent or delay this outcome reside in two words: lifestyle and branding. Investing in t-shirts and co-branding, scoring “collaborations” or sponsorship deals with deep-pocketed companies. I have but a regret: we actually did it sometimes. We should have said no more often. Bands struggling to get together with brands, artists and audience deriving more validity from corporate interest than from anything else, bands happy to learn that in the future they would have to “take charge of their own promotion”: this wasn’t for us. In other words, on our small scale, we should have been able to carve a non-capitalist niche within the larger corporate world. I thought, being young and naive when we started, that “underground” meant just that.

The fact that ours is a struggling industry, where 90% of your time is spent “staying afloat”, obscures an important fact: we are still playing by the rules that got us fucked in the first place. The way we do business is defective: our values are defective, our contracts are defective, our post-Napster economy itself is defective. I just read an article by a label owner who states that “anything we can do to stay afloat should be condoned”. I don’t think so, no. Staying afloat by any means necessary is a meaningless pursuit. The only honest way for a record label to make money is by selling records. We’ve always been uneasy about selling anything else.

And our current cultural economy isn’t healthy either. Consumer practices are fucked. You don’t need me to tell you that music is devalued. Not only because we no longer sell shit (and even when you do, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re selling free shit), but also because tracks are peaking faster than tumblr memes. In our historical moment, music is everywhere but second or third or tenth to many other interests and areas of culture. Fashion, Apple, video games, “devices”, social media, etc. And that’s cool, I guess. But I don’t want to have to be a function of fashion. Nor do I want to urge an artist to publish half-baked tracks every month in order to stay “relevant”. Depleted accounts is one thing, but depleted attentions? […]

Read the whole post on the original site

Institubes is a great label indeed; many of the tracks they released are in my DJ selections. Jean Nipon, an Institubes artist, is featured on the double CD I put out on Citizen Records in 2007 (Jean Nipon Vs. Aï “A​.​C. Anthem (The Micronauts Remix)”). And Das Glow, another Institubes artist, remixed one of my tracks (“High Rise (Das Glow Remix)”).

Selection of articles on the same subject

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s