×
Digital Dialogue

Digital Dialogue is an interview/guest-blog series presented by Byta, and written by friends of Byta. Exploring niche, behind-the-scenes topics within the digital realm of the music ecosystem, Digital Dialogue presents readers with insights into challenges, successes and passion topics in the day-to-day life of those working deep in digital.

Reframing the Narrative: Major Labels Through a Different Lens (Instead of DIY Can We DIT?) with Amanda Schupf, MAX Music

Reframing the Narrative: Major Labels Through a Different Lens (Instead of DIY Can We DIT?) with Amanda Schupf, MAX Music

Who are you? Where do you work?

Amanda Schupf, based in New York City, running my own music tech consultancy – MAX Music – helping to bridge the gap between music rights and talent with music tech companies and investors.

What are you currently listening to? 

Billie Eilish “Lunch”. This song is a bop.

Give us a small insight into your daily routine? 

Wake up at 5:30, get my first cup of coffee, take my dog out for a walk, feed my son breakfast, go to the gym and then by 8 am I am at my desk responding to emails from the day/night before and diving into the day. For better or worse I continue working until I go to sleep around 8/8:30, around the same time I put my son to bed.

Over to you, Amanda…

Reframing the Narrative: Major Labels Through a Different Lens (Instead of DIY Can We DIT?)

The music industry does not have to be a zero-sum game. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for artists, and in my view, there’s room for diverse strategies and players. TRUE support for artists involves educating them about ALL of their options and helping them navigate the landscape.

On that note, I want to speak on what, from my perspective, has been an increasingly one-sided narrative surrounding the position of major labels within the music industry ecosystem today and how we might consider meeting in the middle a bit more in our dialogues. NB: This is an expansion on a piece I published on LinkedIn a few months ago.

Recently, I have seen more and more criticism of major labels, in part due to/in conjunction with the rise of artist-fan platforms. As someone deeply entrenched both within and outside the major label ecosystem, although having never held a job at one, I feel compelled to address what I believe is a skewed narrative that paints major labels as the arch-nemesis of artists and the music industry at large without much context.

To be clear, the rise of artist-to-fan platforms and other efforts to elevate independent artists signify positive and necessary shifts in the music business. But the conversation has become so one-sided, it overlooks the crucial role major labels can play for some artists, particularly those aiming for stratospheric levels of global success. This includes those artists who find their initial success on these same platforms that are positioning themselves as the antithesis to the major labels.

What no one seems to be addressing is the question of what happens when the platforms do their job, an independent artist succeeds – creating a body of work, accumulating fans, and even achieving financial success – and still has aspirations for Beyoncé and Taylor Swift levels of success? Attaining this while remaining ‘independent’ becomes increasingly challenging.

Even artists like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, who possess significant if not complete control over their masters and creative direction, rely on major labels for essential support, including distribution, promotion, touring logistics, administration, and yes, additional financial backing, despite their own financial means. These artists, and many others, depend on major labels for their global infrastructure and experienced teams, including many of our esteemed colleagues and friends, adept at navigating the intricacies of global markets.

This isn’t to diminish the value of platforms supporting indie artists, or those working to help all artists (including major label ones) earn more and have a more meaningful relationship with their fans (again, I work with several of them). Nor is it to disregard the efforts of artists transitioning away from major labels when they feel it’s the right move for them. I’ve been part of artist teams where we decided to part ways with the label, whether due to a lack of fit or the natural evolution of the relationship. It happens all of the time and it’s healthy and totally understandable.

However, I think it’s important to recognize that behind the flashy press releases, many of these platforms have hidden limitations and despite disparaging press releases, major labels have unheralded strengths. Everyone has their role to play in the music ecosystem, and I’ve seen firsthand my entire career how many stakeholders across the board have and continue to rely on major labels to survive.

Comparing now versus then, the DIY approach that has been flourishing for over a decade or so was a necessary response to a very different industry landscape. Back then, “fighting the man” often meant seizing control from labels that had a near-monopoly on distribution and promotion. Today, however, artists and their teams have far more control over their destinies. I think there is room for the conversation to shift from DIY to DIT—Do It Together. This collaborative approach means partnering with the right entities for each individual artist,  including major labels, that offer the right level of power and resources to match the artist’s career stage and goals.

It’s no longer about fighting against the system but finding the right partners within it. A major label may seem less about artist empowerment and success at first glance, but the reality is that no one, at any level, wants an artist to fail. The support and infrastructure provided by major labels can be instrumental for artists reaching for the global stage. Collaboration is key, and understanding the nuanced roles that different entities play can lead to more informed and balanced discussions.

So, I would like to suggest that we all please add some balance and perspective in our dialogues.

The music industry does not have to be a zero-sum game. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for artists, and in my view, there’s room for diverse strategies and players. TRUE support for artists involves educating them about ALL of their options and helping them navigate the landscape.

Thanks for being part of Byta‘s Digital Dialogue series, Amanda!