News » Features

NW Noise: The Industry Insiders



An album on an independent label that sells 5,000 or 6,000 copies over the course of a few months is merely a peep against the roar of a Mariah Carey album selling over 150,000 copies in one day. Independent labels and their artists may not ever drown out the dog-whistle diva, but with enough solidarity and support, they may very well make enough noise to be heard.

The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) is a coalition that offers independent record labels a voice in an industry that has often tried to quiet its smallest members. A2IM is a non-profit corporation that works to make sure independent labels continue to be a valuable, integral part of the music industry. Labels pay for membership based on their Soundscan numbers, the sales source for Billboard's music charts. (Soundscan retrieves its information from "over 14,000 retail, mass merchant outlets and non-traditional sources such as on-line stores and venues.") A2IM supports its members by making sure they're heard in areas of legislation, media access, advocacy, distribution and more. The group also makes sure its members are aware of what's happening in the industry as a whole.

A2IM president Rich Bengloff wrote in the group's February newsletter, "We all have a need to weather the current industry transformation due to the change in consumer music consumption patterns from purchase consumption to listening consumption."

The Lefsetz Letter

Bob Lefsetz was a music-industry attorney, consultant and, in his blog, The Lefsetz Letter, he waxes on how blind the big labels are to the changing industry. He often takes aim at ex-Sony BMG bigwig Clive Davis (who was recently replaced as label head by Barry Weiss, but will stay on as "chief creative officer"). However, he also writes about how important it is for any artist or label of any size to pay heed to the rapidly changing music climate.

He writes passionately about music, its place in our lives and its effects on our well-being and harbors no fantasies that the industry, as it is, will remain intact. I asked him, via e-mail, if he thought independent labels have a better chance of survival where a big label may not. He responded, "As for indies ... they're more nimble, but unless they're run by managers as part of a 360 deal, they're presently facing the same challenges as majors."

A 360-degree contract allows a label rights to more than just a percentage of CD sales. They also get a piece of what concerts, merchandise and endorsements may bring in. These deals are also known as multiple-rights or all-rights contracts.

Lefsetz's blog entries, along with calling out big-name musicians, are often stream-of-consciousness rants and sometimes include quite personal information, but that just adds to his persona as a man for the masses and his knowledge of the industry can be invaluable to someone far removed from the hallowed inner circle. If the Internet is to be believed, Lefsetz receives e-mail from listeners, label presidents, and even occasionally, one really pissed-off rock star. Lefsetz took a short but pointed jab at Kid Rock a couple of months back after Rock's appearance at the 2007 Country Music Awards. In response, Rock lobbed a slew of explicit insults, adding "see you on the streets." The exchange appears to have been removed from Lefsetz's archive.

—Amy Atkins