Monday, January 5, 2009

The Warner/Youtube Fiasco and Why Switchfoot’s Label Independence Looks Even More Wise Now

The following is a random page of my thoughts about the recent fall out between Warner Bros. Records and Youtube, and how it relates to Switchfoot. It was written at roughly 3 this morning, so pardon the nonsensicalities (if any). Thanks for reading! haha

Following the fallout with Youtube, one of the biggest record labels in the country has removed all of their content from the popular video site. That’s right, folks. A major label throwing a fit over ad revenue related to content. Big surprise there huh?

In 2006, Warner Bros. Records was the first to sign on board with Youtube on a licensing deal for their music. The rest of the big four labels, Universal, EMI, and our beloved Sony, soon joined the hunt, and became partners with the site, receiving revenue dollars for ads, clicks, and views. (Not exactly sure how it works).

But now that Warner Bros. has pulled or is in the process of pulling ALL of their artist’s highly-viewed music videos from the site. Even Jason Mraz’s video for “I’m Yours,” which has over 43 million views, is gone. You can’t go watch “Teenagers” thrashing around with My Chemical Romance any more either, and Madonna’s pretty much going to be found dancing elsewhere. The reason is that the label “reported $639 million in digital revenue for the fiscal year that ended in September. Less than 1 percent of that was generated by YouTube’s ads and fees, said an executive close to Warner Music who requested anonymity because the company doesn’t disclose details about individual agreements.” New York Times December 21, 2008

This goes in huge contrast to the fact that Universal and other labels are reporting annual revenues in excess of “tens of millions” of dollars. Strange...


Now why did I put you through all that business stuff? I just thought I’d paint the bigger picture of how incredibly money driven the music industry is today! The Major Labels, once huge money-making machines, are struggling to stay afloat, and are having a hard time adapting to the newer business models... The Major Labels are sinking, crashing, burning, you name it. While some are experiencing success with Youtube, others are looking elsewhere, even threatening to start their own music video services in the same vein as the rising-in-popularity, which has full TV episodes and is driven by a robust ad-revenue engine.

All of this comes to my point: Thank GOD Switchfoot has left that whole scene. The continuing mayhem that the music industry is going through makes the band’s decision to leave Columbia/SonyBMG last year look even wiser than ever. Why sit through this disastrous time when you could be free-- free of the profit-seeking shareholders who control the majors, free of the Youtube wars, free of the pressures to “succeed?” Switchfoot (and, in that case, Jon Foreman and Fiction Family) are free to make the kind of music they love, however they want, and with all the freedom of the world. No deadlines, no hired songwriters, nothing. Just the band and the music. And now that Sony has released their final Switchfoot record (at least for a long time) with “The Best Yet,” and the “This Is Home” period with Disney is likely over, the band has found themselves COMPLETELY indie.

What does this mean from a fan standpoint, as far as the online experience with the band? It means that from here on out, whatever NEW music videos or songs they upload will not be in any danger. There’s no major labels to go under. I’m sure lowercase people and ATO Records (the imprint label, and the distribution label respectively) aren’t going to have giant death matches with Youtube over advertising revenue. It’s an awesome thought to think that as the music industry, at least from the major labels’ perspectives, continues to implode upon itself, our band will be one of the groups that will weather the storm without much devastation.

Who needs a major label deal, when you’ve already got your fan base? Sure the days when “Dare You to Move” permeated the airwaves were nice, and it’s important not to forget why Switchfoot can face the future without too much worry. But it’s also great to know that they don’t need that kind of widespread success to continue making great records and impacting people’s lives. There won’t be huge radio campaigns for the upcoming records; the music is going to have to spread the old-school way: word-of-mouth, with us, the Fams, being the ones who spread the music of Switchfoot accross the globe... or at least amongst our friends.

The end.

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