Recently, I’ve found a great article in the MIDEMblog on artist development with the title:
Emily Gonneau: It’s time artists took centre stage of the music business again
This article actually addresses the topic of my PhD thesis on organic artist development. The term ‘organic’ derives from Keith Negus (1992) “Producing Pop” and explains the artist-led, authentic approach to develop artists. Typically, ‘organic’ artists develop on a natural basis: artist projects are initiated by musicians; the repertoire evolves from the ideas of the participating musicians; managers or record labels believe in the artist’s ideas, repertoire and identity, and help to enhance the artist’s career in the long-term, but only hardly influence the creative tasks and outcome of the artist.
I agree with Gonneau’s statement that the music industries need to readjust their approach to artist development to a more organic one, because that’s what they have nearly lost in the last years/decades…
Over the last decades, record labels, in particular the major ones Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music and EMI Music, invested time and money into the long-term development of new artists, which they do not necessarily provide nowadays anymore. Their focus rather remains on the quick success of artists, which is not necessarily consistent over time. Casting shows, management-created concept bands, and consequently the amount of one hit wonders represent the ‘synthetic’ approach to artist development which is the opposite to the ‘organic’ approach.
There are mainly two reasons for record labels, especially major labels, why their approach to artist development has changed:
I. The two largest major record labels Universal Music and Sony Music are controlled by big corporate groups (Universal Music by Vivendi; Sony Music by Sony Corporation). Due to the fact that the parental corporate firms are stock-traded companies, both major labels have to submit financial quarter statements instead of annual statements which pushed them to work more efficiently by cutting costs and generating quick income with their products.
This situation interferes with long-term artist development because the labels have to expect large profits and the financial break-even of an artist project much earlier than young developed artists may reach, if high amount of money is invested into their initial development.
II. With the crisis of records sales, which started in 2001/2002, the record labels also lost their courage and possibilities to invest a considerable amount of money in artists. Again, they minimised their financial risks. Missing risk willingness is an enemy of artist development as well because record labels have to invest into artists to build them up and you never know if the artist will be able to build a strong fan base which is crucial for a successful artist career.
Gonneau mentions in her article, the artists and their music are the source and foundation of the music industries. And without great and developed artists, there is no music business. Artists will be enthusiastic and committed, if they can pursue their personal aims and visions. If they get their music and image dictated by their management, they will feel less committed to the project.
The ‘organic’ approach still exists, but rather for independent record labels, artist managers and self-managing artists. But normally, these instances cannot invest a comparable amount of money into artist development like majors can do.
Therefore, it is time that major record labels readjust their approach to artist development to a more ‘organic’ artist development approach to ensure that they may build sustainable artists, who are able to gain long-term success and popularity.