The Future of Music II: The Culture Label
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The Future of Music II: The Culture Label

By Luke Tkalcevic (Sondrio)

Read my first post on the presentation of music and an introduction to this series here.

“Anyone that works in music knows it’s not just about sitting home writing songs. It’s about multimedia. I don’t mean to say that I’m like a marketing executive at Facebook, but it’s always about putting [yourself] out there as a phenomenon — as a culture itself. There is no same road to take as an artist, that a label will set out for you. It’s like a wilderness now to find people. You have to do everything. And I see the brands that we create — as Mad Decent, Major Lazer and Diplo, everything — to be endless.” – Diplo, via Huffington Post.

Though major record labels will probably always exist in some form, I feel the responsibilities of the indie label have been blurred. Many of today’s top independent labels such as Mad Decent, Fool’s Gold, Warp, and Ninja Tune not only distribute music but also art, products, films, and usually run their own event and touring arms. In simpler terms, labels are becoming dynamic creative brands that are innovating our relationship with our favourite music brands online.

There is no better example in recent history than Diplo for fostering this. He has leveraged ‘the creative brand’ with his Mad Decent label, which has always had a strong focus on bass music from around the world. Initially the label built momentum with a focus on Baile Funk and a myriad of releases from South American acts such as Bonde De Rolê, as well as Diplo’s film Favela on Blast, which chronicled the history of the Baile Funk scene in Brazil.

A movie on a record label? Yep, Diplo did it back in 2008. The feature was released digitally on Mad Decent for $5, a prospect so reasonable for a full-length film by digital download at the time that I didn’t think twice about buying it. It gave a cultural context to all the music that was released on Mad Decent before the creation of the movie, and in particular, increased my awareness of Diplo as a culture. The fact is, Diplo knew back then that this cross-discipline diversification of releases was emerging  as a prerequisite to getting noticed globally. Where this differs from my first post on Mr Oizo however is how this relates to an emerging “subscription” culture online.

All together at Mad Decent, you’ve got a full length movie for $5 (which Diplo has stated ">cost him quite a bit more to produce), vinyl releases that can set you back over $20, yet you also have the chance of downloading the release for free over at Jeffrees (Mad Decent’s free music imprint). It’s an inconsistency in valuing content that works. By encouraging multiple experiences with a label, it’s possible to create an audience that makes regular purchases, buy’s a subscription, and even helps create enough buzz to boost sales or awareness for a pre-existing release or artist. To take a local example from the Australian Panel at this year’s IMS, Grant Smillie from Neon Records mentioned that Knife Party’s first EP ">sold 30,000 copies in Australia alone, even though it was available for free on the internet. That is a staggering figure, where fans and bloggers (the release was never serviced to radio) played a massive role in it’s success.

I’ve explained how far Mad Decent has pushed their label forward, but how far can you push that envelope when you’ve done so much already?

Diplo has recently announced a new Zine project called “Blow Your Head”, documenting music culture from across the globe in photographs, proof it may be quite a while yet before he reaches the limit of what’s possible for Mad Decent. Will this particular project be a hit? Time will tell. Will it further cement Diplo and Mad Decent as “a culture itself”? More than you can imagine.

Seeing an indie label as an adaptive brand leads into my biggest prediction for the industry: The emergence of the creative agency. It’s business model relies on a team of creative talents coming together to build a multi-discipline creative collective that sustains itself through a wide variety of income streams and partnerships.

“The creative agency” will be the next post and the conclusion to this series. Thanks again to Euey Hawkins for assisting with this post.

Via Party By Jake. Check out Sondrio’s Facebook page here.


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