Hard economic times are forcing music artists to become more self-sufficient in their efforts to find success in mainstream markets. That was one of the harsh realities coming out of “The View From the Helm,” a high-powered panel session Thursday at the South by Southwest music conference.
The most outspoken of the panelists, Ark 21 president Miles Copeland III, argued that artists need to help themselves break into the marketplace because the record companies no longer have the budgets or staffs to do all the work.
“Artists have to realize that the label will be a small part of their career,” Copeland said. “Artists need to bring costs down and be adventurous.” Copeland said artists need to find new revenue streams, such as commercials, to supplement what the labels have to offer. He said Sting’s latest album, “Brand New Day,” broke largely as a result of a Jaguar commercial for which the automaker paid the artist $7.5 million to perform the single “Desert Rose.” Interscope Records was prepared to spend only $1.5 million on promoting the album, and radio would not initially pick up “Rose” because a large portion of the song is sung in Arabic by the lesser-known Cheb Mami, Copeland said.
“I think all the record labels should get together and say to radio, ‘Ten bucks a play; if you don’t like it, then don’t play it,’ ” Copeland said. “Free programming? … Are we are out of our fuckin’ minds?”