The Null Device

Is MP3 killing indie music?

Stewart Anderson is shutting down 555 Recordings (or putting the label on indefinite hiatus), citing lack of sales due to the file-sharing culture; and he paints a grim picture of the future of indie labels:
And its clear why this has happened. If I had access to the internet when I was a teen I doubt I would have bought many records either. But consider this kids, very soon there wont be any small labels, so the underground, despite all your calls for bringing down the big guys will disapear along with them.
Of course, I understand its not necessarily 555 things the kids are downloading, but the fact is there are so many tracks being downloaded now means theres no need for traditional shops or distros. So shops order only "indie" records from sure fire sellers like The White Stripes and Belle and Sebastian. Y'know both of those bands where tiny once. Where will the next White Stripes or B+S come from if all the labels like mine give up. The consumer will loose out in the end when the new music stops happening. (You can still listen to the Rolling Stones at least). There will always be NEW MUSIC you say? Well, why bother making a CD if you have a day job and cant tour for 3 months at a time? Why bother making a CD if no distros will take it because its your first release? Why bother when the CD pressing is usually 500 minimum and you end up with 400 under your bed for the rest of your life...

555 Recordings is only the latest label to cease operations. And if Stewart is right, then the musical ecosystem could collapse, with there being no space for new bands and artists to develop, and possibly the "big indie" side of things changing to resemble the major-label world of manufactured bands (what will replace the aging White Stripes when they lose it?). This doomsday scenario, though, is contradicted somewhat by reports of indie labels doing well.

So what does the future look like? Can we expect to see a musical apocalypse? Or will music adapt to the new way of doing things? Will the post-MP3 world be a dark age or a renaissance, or something in between?

There are 3 comments on "Is MP3 killing indie music?":

Posted by: mitch http:// Thu Sep 11 05:28:32 2003

All part of Tanya Headon's master plan.

Posted by: Stephen Thu Sep 11 11:45:02 2003

"I havent changed anything in my manner of running a label."

I hate to sound like an irritating management guru but if Stewart were hoping for success in an industry where nothing ever seems to change then he's in the wrong industry. Perhaps he should try being an accountant or something.

Posted by: James Russell Sat Sep 13 14:15:21 2003

I'd feel slightly more sympathetic towards the bloke if the situation he was describing (i.e. how hard it is for indie musicians to remain viable operations and actually sell records) hadn't existed long before the advent of file-sharing. How many garage rock bands of the 1960s collapsed cos they couldn't continue to operate because they couldn't sell more than a few hundred copies of their record? Go back to the 19th century and you have either Thoreau or Emerson (I forget which of the two it was) remarking that they had five hundred books in their library, most of which were unsold copies of their own book. The existence of file-sharing probably isn't making things easy for the small labels, but it hasn't created a new situation by any means.

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