What Record Labels Can Learn From Startups (Part 1)

What's wrong with this picture? Answer below.

What's wrong with this picture? Answer below.

Last week, I met for a second time with Luke Wood, head of A&R at Interscope Records.

During our first sit down, Luke shared with me some of the problems he’s facing running a label.

One of these problems struck me as really odd: according to Luke, it’s always been hard to let people know when an artist’s album is coming out.

Apparently, even with TV, radio, and rappers incessantly blathering, “YO NEW ALBUM IN STORES, BITCHES!” consumers continue to languish in confusion.


I say baffling, because while I don’t know when the new Weezer album is dropping, I know EVERY TIME one of my friends uploads a dumb picture of me on Facebook… or tweets, or adds me on MySpace, or uploads a video on YouTube.

So what are startups good at that labels aren’t?

Getting your contact information… and using it.

In fact, record labels don’t even seem to try. Instead of going for your digits, they market their products like this:


Ok. Maybe a passerby sees it; maybe he likes it; maybe he remembers the date; maybe he buys the album.

That’s a lot of maybes. And worse, there’s no way to know if the poster worked or not.

But what if that poster looked like this:


Now the poster isn’t just noise – it’s a CALL TO ACTION.

Text us your e-mail address, and we’ll send you a link for a free mp3. Good trade?

And now, we know your E-MAIL, your PHONE NUMBER, your LOCATION, and your MUSICAL TASTES.

So we can contact you directly next time to let you know Katy Perry’s album is out… or that she’s playing a show near you… or that she wants to hear your wildest fantasies for $9.99/minute…

Kinda feel like something Netflix would do?

Though record labels aren’t doing things like this now, I got the feeling from Luke that they could be on the way.

But while a startup can make the decision to launch a new project in 10 minutes, record labels are substantially larger animals with deep organizational barriers to changing their behavior. And labels don’t have a historically strong track record for change.

I was impressed at the way Luke seemed to openly acknowledge this.

Unlike many industry executives I’ve met so far in LA, I got the same feeling talking with Luke as I do talking with tech execs back in Silicon Valley — the sense of a strong vision, intense passion, and urgency to develop a new way of doing things.

Among my friends, I’m in the minority believing it’s not too late for record labels to adapt. But I stand with most in thinking it’s about time they did.

And I’m excited to learn there are some in the industry who agree.

14 Responses

  1. don’t tell me there is this much low hanging fruit in the music industry – if so, let me know when i can come down there and do a little consulting gig that will make them millions (and make me a few points on those millions)

  2. […] This post was Twitted by MileyMays […]

  3. My first thought is, who cares when it’s available in stores? When can I buy it on iTunes? And why isn’t the answer “Today!” ?

  4. […] This post was Twitted by MishkaGirl […]

  5. That’s very interesting stuff. You’d think that advertisers would be wanting to use the best possible ways that will attract people, this could be a new beginning….

  6. this, my friend, is why you will make it and others will just be one among the crowd

  7. What a great article. You’d think advertisers would want to really do something smart to attract people. This could be a great way to get started. We have often thought about the free mp3 for your email sorta idea. I THINK IT COULD WORK!!!

    Have you guys seen this yet?

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  9. I’m pretty sure record labels are already doing that.

  10. the majority of socialnetwork shoves new releases down your throat ala front page and relevancy ads. if you want to be a in the know media consumer, turn on the radio. watch tv, read the posters. follow the artists on twitter. fan them on facebook. favorite their channel on youtube. sign up for their txt updates. call their voicemails, watch their vblogs. these aren’t new concepts to marketing.

  11. I think a lot of record labels are doing that already. Sometimes its annoying

  12. Unfortunately the bigger you get, then less time you have to connect with your fan-base… at least it seems that way. I don’t think it is a big problem what they are doing now, because they are catching up on the small details that start-ups do and are willing to risk at least a little more. Personally I like hearing back from a artist or band if you send/comment about something they did, it’s that ‘they care’ feeling. I do not however hold them responsible if they can’t get back to me. But yeah, they can learn one or two things indie labels are doing.

  13. Hi thanks for this tipp. do you have any newsletter where i can add rocco.sifredi@gmx.net? because this would be automatic postet to my blog and you get for free a backlink…
    Thanks for an answer

    If you have any Questions… dont hesistate to contact me…

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