The future of record labels, and avoiding the perils of the past.

Creating music is a labour of love, or at least it should be. The artist creating the sounds and songs of tomorrow usually have a deep admiration for the music they bring into the world. Spending many painstaking hours, days, and even years to create an album, or even just one track, that they hope will take them to the greatest of peaks artistically and or commercially. 

But what is the next step? How does one “blow up?” Hard to pinpoint an exact method to the madness in the music industry. Some artists take years to be noticed by “the right people.” The right people though, what does that mean? Should everyone make music till the end of their days, playing countless small gigs until they find their very own Quincy Jones or Brian Epstein?

Even after all of that, the greatest question to this day still is asked, do you need a record label to be a successful musician? 

Before all else, it is imperative to make sure that you define your success as an artist and keep check of your expectations and reality. That being said, we live in a world where anyone’s dream can become a reality. In that, be careful what you wish for.

Bands such as Thirty Seconds to Mars, A Day to Remember and Nine Inch Nails have all ran into crippling issues with their respective Labels. Jared Leto and his band were sued for breach of contract, and eventually made a gripping documentary about the situation, titled Artifact. “Watch the film first. Maybe twice, and read some good books, get a great lawyer and don’t sign a record deal until you have to. Gain as big an audience and community as you can, work on your craft and art, get on the road and tour and then find a partner. “

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, on his Australian tour no less, wrote, “As the climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more.” The effect of greed and corruption of record labels don’t just affect the Artists themselves, but listeners of music as well. “The ABSURD retail pricing of ‘Year Zero’ in Australia. Shame on you. ‘Year Zero’ is selling for 34.99 Australian dollars ($29.10 US). No wonder people steal music.”

Other famed musicians who have been hindered or crippled by their labels include Prince, Johnny Cash, Kesha, Dr Dre, and huge pop acts such as Backstreet Boys, ‘Nsync and Destiny’s Child.

So what is the solution?  British distribution company and record label Awal, who is partnered with Kobalt Music Group, feels as though they are aiding artists and fans alike. 

Kobalt’s recordings company has provided indie rock bands, hip hop and pop artists and musicians all over the genre spectrum with services including global marketing, campaign coordination, sync licensing and global distribution. Just take a look at some of the artists working with the AWAL family: Rex Orange County, Kim Petras, The Naked and Famous, Steve Lacy, Lauv, Betty Who, Freya Ridings, The Wombats, The Kooks, Aly & Aj, and deadmau5. 

Recently, Indie giants Cold War Kids signed to AWAL. Lonny Olinick, AWAL CEO, recently told Music Week: “Cold War Kids have established themselves as one of the most important alternative bands of this generation. Their latest album is a huge step forward and we’re proud to support them as they reach millions of new and current Cold War Kid fans across the globe with New Age Norms.”

According to the “How it Works” page from their website, “AWAL is designed to build long term careers of different shapes, sizes, and scenes. From 200,000 streams to 2 billion and beyond. No size fits all. At every stage, every AWAL artist owns their work, calls the shots, takes home the lion’s share of revenue, and sidesteps long-term contracts.”

This mentality isn’t just progressive rhetoric, it is the next logical step in how the music world will proceed for decades to come. Smart people working with talented artists and having their best interest, as it should be. Whether it’s being the home for legends and veterans such as The Kooks, The Wombats, deadmau5 or Cold War Kids that they deserve, continuing to groom “ready right now” pop stars like Lauv and Kim Petras, or pairing young and hungry musicians with giants of the music industry, that’s the future. 

Steve Lacy got to work with Vampire Weekend on their most recent record, Rex Orange County has collaborated with hip hop titan and innovator Tyler the Creator. Betty Who featured on a Troye Sivan track and has been crushing the festival circuit for years now. 

AWAL’s artist roster is thriving, and it seems their methods are working for everyone involved. At the end of the day, musical artists are people and deserve to be treated exactly as such, people.