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“The best way to kill momentum on a developing act is to overtly market to their core audience. These fans are turned off by anything that seems to be generated by a major label.”
——an unnamed executive

MAJORS SORTING OUT THE NEW RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

Revamped Guidelines Are Radically Altering the Way the Big Four Operate
Most major labels are presently deep into the process of planning their 2007 budgets and trying to figure out what aspects of the new business model will best enable them to be profitable in these challenging times. The current thinking involves several new guidelines that will take some getting used to for the staffs of the major labels, who in essence have to relearn their jobs. According to the execs we queried (each of whom asked to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons), these new realities include the following:

Labels can no longer indiscriminately drill multiple oil wells in the hopes of hitting the occasional gusher: “In the good old days, we had the personnel and the deep pockets to simultaneously work any number of projects,” groused one veteran executive. “These days money’s tight and our staff is stretched so thin that it’s nearing the breaking point. So we have to be extremely judicious in terms of the projects we prioritize—and quite frankly, there are more and more records on our release schedule that don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, and everybody knows it but the act, and sometimes the management.”

The majors must quickly cut bait on their stiffs: We’ve seen it a number of times since the start of the fourth quarter—new albums from acts with proven track records that fall well short of expectations. “The conventional wisdom used to be that a new release had six-to-eight weeks and/or two singles to prove itself,” a marketing chief confided. “But now it’s more like the movie business—if you don’t meet or exceed projections, it’s ‘See ya! Next.’”

Regarding new acts, labels must let the market speak rather than attempting to dictate to it: “Let’s face it,” one label head acknowledged, “the majors can no longer afford to be in the business of developing a number of artists at one time by taking a high-profile marketing approach.” Stated another exec: “You can't anoint artists from the top of the label, like in the old days. My former president used to say, ‘This record’s a smash,’ and we’d drop everything, including a couple of million bucks, before we had any research to prove him right or wrong. Now that the powers to be have dropped my former president, we’re trying to make informed choices about which new act to chase by listening to the market and trying to see which ones raise their heads, because it takes all of our resources to chase potential hits. Sometimes we get lucky with a new band, but that’s because the kids know something we don’t and take an act to critical mass essentially without the label’s participation. In fact, the best way to kill momentum on a developing act is to overtly market to their core audience. These fans are turned off by anything that seems to be generated by a major label.” This new reality resembles a Zen riddle—the harder you push, the more resistance you encounter. Without question, the days of throwing money willy-nilly at new and developing acts to see which one sticks are long gone.

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ADELE ADELE ADELE
Adele; Adele Adele?
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A... dele?
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Adele Adele; Adele.
ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE
(Adele.)
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