By Rachel Bolin
360 Record Deals are nothing more than a band-aid approach to the decline of the sales of physical copies of albums. They were created in response to the massive dwindling sales of CDs that companies were dealing with. These companies now get a piece of the whole pie. When a new artist signs a deal with them, they are handing over a giant piece of their total income. They are essentially seen as a possible cash cow for the company to help keep its self afloat. These new artists suffer because of these deals. The record companies believe it is what will keep them going, but it will not save them.
Since the introduction of the digital download, record companies have been suffer-ing financially. They have had massive cuts with budgets, staff, marketing, and promo-tion. Many companies have cut out their A&R departments. By doing this, they cut the department that is responsible for keeping new artists coming in. Companies have had to cut their artist rosters as well. They have possibly let go of many artists who could have flourished if they had the time and resources to do so. It’s a sad reality to think of the pos-sible great artists who were let go merely because the company wanted to save some money.
With their decision to make these cuts, they may have saved some money by cut-ting these corners. As a consequence of those cuts, they had to find a new way to increase their flow of income. The answer was the 360 deal. Instead of having several artists on their roster, they would now focus on a few. They would create and sign a new deal, in which these new artists would give them income from avenues these companies had never touched beforehand. They now get a cut from touring, merchandise, songwriting, spon-sorship money, fan clubs, and any other avenue of income the artist might have. Any way the artist can make money, the company now can as well.
The problem is that the philosophy of the industry changed. Before they were will-ing to give time and several albums to see if the artist was a viable source of income for the label. Bruce Springsteen and Steely Dan are perfect examples of this, it took them both three or four albums to really make a splash on the charts and start selling major amounts of records. Before the creation of this deal, the company would have a single record to market and promote, then distribute the royalties between themselves and the artist. That was a very simple deal compared to what we have now.
The philosophy now is that if an artist does not immediately do well, they get dropped. There is no wiggle room to allow these artists to find their voice and to do so takes time. Time is not something these companies have. They need money now. They are not looking towards the future and adapting to how things are changing. The 360 deal was created as a response to a massive change in the industry. These companies have responded like an ostrich sticking it’s head in the sand and hoping that it will go back to what it was. They have been stubborn with change, and it looks like they almost are refus-ing to see how technology and the Internet will push the industry forward. There are chances for them to change their business models, to adapt and stay afloat. But they don’t see these. This is not a viable option for them to stay in business.
Record Labels were initially started by men and a few women who were entrepre-neurs who had a natural ear and eye for finding talent. These were men who were not essentially businessmen who had a plan in place; they ran these labels as a way to release great music into the world. They found talent and gave these artists the time and nurtur-ing to develop into the great artists that have great legacies and bodies of work behind them. They believed in these artists and did what they should have, gave them time to develop and be great. They were not expecting them to immediately be great and sell millions of records earning the company millions of dollars. Naturally this was several decades ago, when the industry was very different from what it is now. The idea of nur-turing and letting talent flourish naturally for the sake of great music was the idea then, and it has in some way continued to exist to this day. This is ultimately what the music industry should be about Natural talent and great music to last for all time. Not rushing music merely to sell tickets for a tour, and shift millions of units of a record. This is what the major labels lack.
These labels started by the entrepreneurs were eventually bought out by other la-bels and became these corporate monsters that ended up controlling the majority of the industry and what is played on the radio and ultimately what sells. The idea that those beginning entrepreneurs had of nurturing great talent got lost in the changing of times, it became about the almighty dollar, pound, euro or whatever currency they use. Money is the motivating factor. No longer is it having an artistic vision, a voice, a natural talent, or an album that may not be popular but will stand the test of time. The 360 deal is just an extension of the idea of money ruling all.
These corporations have been slow to react to the changes around them, and will most likely reject them for as long as they can. Until someone finds a way to exploit the digital realm for their benefit to make a huge profit for these corporations, they will con-tinue to sign artists with the 360 deals. The labels are claiming that these deals are benefi-cial for all artists on the label as it gives them the capital to put into promoting other art-ists. Rarely, if ever, do these deals work out like that. These young artists are usually dropped from their contracts and do not make the most of the money the label put into them back. These deals are only a lost cause for all involved. They are just a Band-Aid on a much bigger wound of the music industry.