Saturday, March 26, 2011

Living Off This

Last week we got the news that Institubes, one of our favourite labels, was closing. Read the press release here

I had noticed that in the last few months most of the website content had been dedicated to their sub-label, Sound Pellegrino, so we all knew something was wrong. However, you would assume that an indie label this size, even if not making anyone millionaire, could at least stay afloat. Well, I guess not.

It's a scary and depressing thought isn't it?

Since about twelve or so years, any newly founded indie label already knows the deal: Even if you make it big, there's no money in this.

That means that, if you're going to run a label, then you're going to have to fund it off your pocket. But that's only possible if you have good source of income.

Para-One of Institubes
The obvious answer would be to use money from live performances to invest in a label. That means that you're going to have to do make money to survive and still have enough to fund releases and such, or spend most of time working on a day job. But it's kind of a vicious cycle: even nowadays the best kind of promotion it's still a physical release. The thing is, most labels nowadays are not looking for new talent (since releasing anything it's always a loss) and if you don't run your own business then it's going to be hard to break into a scene.

I have always been a defender of internet and file sharing. And I still am, since you can't really ask people to spend money on tunes or records if they're avaiable online for free, and besides, the money that would be spent on such things is being spent on the internet bill. This technology gave us access to free culture, and I still believe that is the future.

That said, I think that if you're selling for a DJ audience it still works, even if it's hard to make a profit. If you're selling for a listener audience then your money must come from somewhere else. Maybe you could take a slice of the ISP money to fund artists?

Times are strange. Nothing really works.

Lots of artists dedicate their entire teen years to their passion only to realize that even your favourite artist does this as a hobby nowadays. Even if you studied music on college.

But hey, that seems to be the main problem of this generation. College education is not meant to transmit knowledge anymore. That would mean that the so-called elites wouldn't be elites anymore. So today college it's only a formality, or a job candidate selection process. Even in Portugal, most public higher education institutions are partially privatly funded, and the first thing they tell you to do when you are accepted is to create a bank account in bank X and to buy a laptop on company Y. Conciliating work and studying is harder, since most colleges no longer offer night classes and they usually require you to do dedicate 100% of your time to that shit. And in the end you still didn't learn enough to get a job.
Protests in Portugal against precarity in the job market

So even if you have a sound engineering or production major, or even a instrument major, the results are the same: since the recording industry doesn't work, you have to rely on public performance. For that to be sucessful you need a promotion mechanism behind you, and that requires financial investment. The problem is all of that used to be centered around the label, and those are no longer a profitable business.

The press-release on which Institubes announced it's end says it all. It ends on a positive note tought, which is: most of the artists of their roster now have sucessful careers. But I bet most of them also do other things for a living.

These are troubled times.


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