How is the music industry changing?

John Legend:  Well the music industry is changing, one, because of a lot of people who were powerful before are starting to lose power and influence because of a shift. First of all, we don’t sell as many records anymore, so obviously record stores are going out of business.

Record labels, overall their revenues are smaller, because even the digital sales don’t make up for the loss in the physical sales. And so everybody is contracting on the record side.

So that means recording labels have smaller budgets. That means the staff is smaller there. They’re understaffed in a lot of areas I think, and they have to have a leaner operation.

That means for an artist, you get less support from the record label, and you have to have management and a team around you that make up for the difference. And what the label used to do, we have to figure out how to do it ourselves.

Fortunately for us, there’s still other revenue streams other than making records. There’s touring. There’s merchandising. There’s marketing partnerships and endorsements, and all kinds of sundry ways to make money. And the labels are realizing that we’re making all this money. They’re helping us become a star, but we’re making money in all these other areas. And so now the new deals that record labels are assigning, they’re not just trying to take a piece of the records, they want to take a piece of the touring, they want to take a piece of the merchandising, and all the other revenue streams that come in. So realizing that the pie for the actual sales of records has gotten smaller, they’re trying to take a piece of some other pies. And luckily I signed before that started happening. I haven’t had to give up any percentage of my touring to my record label.

Overall I think what happens is the artist and the artist’s management have to take more control over the artist’s career, and be more hands on with every decision, and be more creative when it comes to the right partnerships to market the artist and to market the tour. And you just can’t rely on the record label as much as you used to because they’re smaller, they have fewer resources, and there are so many channels out there that you can take advantage of that you can do sometimes just as well as the record label could have done.

Recorded on: Jan 29, 2008

A shifting balance of power.

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