Radio Berkman: record labels and the age of hit singles

Frankie Barnhill Apr 1, 2011

We’ve been following Amazon’s efforts to get record labels on board about their new cloud-based music service. The tension between technology and the traditional music industry just continues to grow.

Amazon’s new music service is the first of a service of its kind, and could be a game-changer for how we store and use our music.

Our smart pals at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society have produced a timely podcast. It’s the fourth in their “Rethinking Music” series, and it’s worth a listen. It speaks to John Moe’s previous question about whether record labels are an outdated institution.

Berkman interviews “Big” Jon Platt, the music executive who was behind hits like Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” Platt says that although the Internet offers more ways for new artists to get their music out without needing a record label for exposure, there are some drawbacks. What YouTube doesn’t do well is vet and finance the best artists, meaning that some musicians might not develop as they could.

“The one thing lacking in our business now and the biggest challenge [for the music industry] is artist development,” Platt said. “Artists aren’t being developed anymore.”

Platt said that undeveloped artists can have massive hits on YouTube, but when it comes time for them to put out an album they don’t have the branding and marketing support they need.

“The reality is: it’s become a song business, not an artist business,” Platt said. “There’s something wrong with that model.”

But unlike some music industry folk, Platt doesn’t completely discount the Internet for getting new artist out there. Here more about this by downloading the podcast.

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