Ballroom Dancing

SXSW panels

Ballroom Dancing
Photo By Gary Miller

Billboard's Indie Label White Paper

Austin Convention Center, Wednesday, March 15

With Billboard having recently made a study of independent labels in the marketplace, the surprising thing about this panel was what wasn't discussed. A logical jumping-off point would've been what Billboard's definition of an indie label is, especially since the two label reps present were Martin Mills, chairman of the multilabel Beggars Group, and Steve Lerner of Wind-Up Records, the self-proclaimed "largest independently owned label in the U.S.," neither of which are exactly being run out of someone's garage. That said, Billboard's Executive Editor and Associate Publisher Tamara Conniff led an engaging discussion on the concerns of today's record business, from the closing of independent record stores to the dilemma of digital downloads and the advantages of marketing through MySpace.com. One of the most startling statistics Conniff provided was that 650 independent record stores have closed in the past year with blame being placed on big-box stores like Best Buy for selling albums below cost. Mills offered wise tidbits like, "The majors are defending a model that's obsolete. They want complete control of digital. We're much more relaxed about it. Digital has been great for us. It was 30% of our sales last year." Still, the view of a truly independent label would have offered another side of the business the conversation sorely lacked.

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