Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Deconstructing groupthink in the record label narrative

There are some interesting examples of groupthink at work when it comes to discussing the current travails facing record labels. For a start, there’s broad agreement amongst observers that the major label model must become, to borrow the words of …

Fri, Jun 15, 2012, 09:55

   

There are some interesting examples of groupthink at work when it comes to discussing the current travails facing record labels. For a start, there’s broad agreement amongst observers that the major label model must become, to borrow the words of Michael McDowell, radical or redundant.

On the indie side of things, there’s a line that a small number of labels are providing perfect examples for others to follow. For instance, I’ve lost count of the number of pieces I’ve read about how XL Records have bucked every trend in the business. The latest such piece is a report on US National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on the “record label with a Midas touch”.

The reason for the focus on Richard Russell’s label comes down to the runaway success of Adele and attempts by pundits to try to explain how it happened. There are also efforts to draw lessons which have a bearing for the wider industry from how the west London label with a small, bespoke roster operates.

In truth, it’s rather simple. As with other indie labels who’ve lasted a long time in the business – Laurence Bell’s Domino Records is another fine example, a label who’ve just launched the Domino Drip membership scheme – it comes down to a belief in talent. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out (the XL biographies always gloss over the label’s dealings with Azealia Banks, for example) but, more often than not, the label and the act come to the same way of thinking about what’s going on and how best to develop that talent.

The what-aboutery which tries to extrapolate a model to copy from the XL and Adele story misses the point. You can’t simply replicate what happened with “21”. The real lessons here are the same as they always were – it’s about spotting talent, developing acts and trusting your instinct.