Label Heads Sound Off
Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., March 14, 2003
Label Heads Sound OffAustin Convention Center, Thursday, March 13
There were obviously lots of issues eating away at the minds of these record execs, and this freeform rant-style panel gave them just the platform to air their concerns. Featuring New West Records President Cameron Strang, V2's Andrew Gershon, and Beggars Group/Matador CEO Lesley Bleakley, this was a progressive, interesting group of folks, positioned somewhere in the gray area between the big-shot majors and the grassroots indies. Discussion of the Internet and MP3 file sharing dominated this seminar over the changing landscape of today's music marketplace. Conversation was driven by a very confrontational and loud group of badge-holders, lined up at a microphone. Most confrontational of all was one relentless speaker, who questioned the labels' unwillingness to confront radio or retail for a piece of the pie, criticizing them for going after the consumer instead. The panel's attitude was fatalistic, many speakers referencing Clear Channel Communications and the big retailers, presenting the portrait of labels as midsized fish in the food chain -- victims of the larger corporate entities. It was also pointed out repeatedly that today's economic landscape offers fertile ground for independent record labels. "I would argue that there's several disadvantages to being on a major," said career record exec Jay Boberg, citing indies' abilities to narrow their focus and identify with consumers on a local level. There was a consensus that changes had to be made for labels to continue to be profitable, but nobody seemed to know exactly what those were. One speaker suggested that labels offer concertgoers on-the-spot CDs of the live show they just attended. "Clear Channel already has a piece of that one," groaned Strang. "I have absolute respect for the artist," stated Gershon. "None of us would be standing here today if it wasn't for them." Unfortunately, none of these label folks quite seemed to know how to help themselves, much less help the artists.