From a successful DIY indie musician…
Jonathan Coulton makes a full time living as a music 2.0 internet musician.
Now that Jonathan Coulton is something of a household name in some segments of the online community, has anyone approached him with a deal with the devil and a pen dripping money? “I’ve had a couple of conversations… I’m not anti-label in concept,” he tells me. “I have people I pay to do things like a label would; I can’t do everything myself. That’s always been what a label is for. That’s still true. It’s just that the deals that have been proposed to me never made a great deal of sense; they always involve giving up a piece of what I already have, as a gamble to increase the fan base even more.”
It makes sense, and even for popular bands the economics of signing with a major label rarely work out. The band 30 Seconds to Mars found this out the hard way. After scoring a couple of catchy and popular radio hits and doing some touring, they found themselves on the wrong side of a lawsuit after their label decided it wanted more music from the group. Singer Jared Leto described the business of going platinum in an open letter to the fans. “If you think the fact that we have sold in excess of 2 million records and have never been paid a penny is pretty unbelievable, well, so do we. And the fact that EMI informed us that not only aren’t they going to pay us AT ALL but that we are still 1.4 million dollars in debt to them is even crazier,” Leto wrote, sounding exasperated. “That the next record we make will be used to pay off that old supposed debt just makes you start wondering what is going on. Shouldn’t a record company be able to turn a profit from selling that many records? Or, at the very least, break even?” He goes on to describe other aspects of the label he found intolerable, including the firing of the people who helped his band, EMI pressuring the band to place ads on its official website, and the fact that they will never own their masters.
Says Jonathan: “There is going to be some company that comes along that’s like a full-service label and has the scalability that a guy like me can do this sort of thing.”
So in Coulton’s world, the label doesn’t come to you and take control of things. Rather, you build your following, and then you hire a company that operates like a label. The most dramatic change in all of this is that the artist is the boss, every step of the way… Very much our philosophy at Pro Soul Alliance!