Here’s a nice little story to show both the power of the Internet as a route to market but also to debunk the myth that the Internet disintermediates record labels:
Scottish born singer songwriter Sandi Thom decided to put on hold trekking around the country in her clapped out car to perform at tiny gigs which she was personally losing money on and instead decided to do a 21 date ‘tour’ from her basement in Tooting. The gigs were webcast live and a first night audience of 60 peaked a few days later with a international audience of 162,000. Before she knew it she was getting sent free guitars from would be sponsors and ultimately landed a deal with Sony BMG’s RCA.
I’ve always argued that simply being able to reach an audience doesn’t mean that the Internet spells the death of record labels (not even in these MySpace dominated days). It is simply another way in which artists can reach new fans and either sell more records or get a record deal in the first place. Ultimately just about every artist wants a record deal. Sure, Simply Red might have decided to sell direct to their fans because they have an established fan base to sell to. But over time I wouldn’t bet against Simply Red going the same route as Prince, and soon realizing that the fan base will slowly dwindle over time without a record label’s marketing muscle and ultimately coming back into the label fold for another deal.