Posted Dec 15th, 2014 (1:50 am) by James Hughes
Why Craft Beers and Craft Beats Are Not So Different
Image by The Just Beer Project

Record labels are a dime a dozen. In our post internet society music floods the airwaves at a rate no one could have ever predicted, and with infinite niche markets to fill comes infinite imprints to match. The days of relying on the big three; Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and Universal Music Group are gone. The rise of independent labels has proven to be a bastion for those who are striving to push their individual style (and the genre they represent) to the world. Similarly, the world of craft beer has seen the same push in recent years. The rise of the craft beer industry sparked many to ditch their BMC (Bud, Miller, and Coors) ways and strive for a less homogenized product. The problem resides in how many of these individuals think that starting a label is a piece of cake, and that it will somehow project them into the mainstream.

In America people love two things: great music and great beer. With never ending popularity for both of these feel good, and sometimes feel bad, items it is easy to draw similarities. Firstly, an artist creating their own label is like a brewer/brewery deciding that they want to be a distributer. Not only are you not just in charge of producing the product that you have lived and breathed for your entre professional life, but now you need to figure out how to get that product out to the world. The effort necessary to make this happen can draw a huge energy away from their creative passions. The roles one would need to play in the industry, if tackling this mountain by themselves, are curator, distributor, promoter, manager, and educator. All of those hats that need to be worn pull the artist away from their own creative endeavors.

Those whose egos are big enough and wish to embrace the challenge of going on into this world are many. This leads to the largest problem: dilution. The craft beer explosion has reduced the insanely popular Double India Pale Ale (DIPA, IIPA) into a commonplace beer. For all of the acclaimed projects like DJ A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold Records to Jack White’s Third Man Records, there are countless others floating in the void failing and reappearing with a million more copycats.

With the relationship between an artist and their label is as delicate as any, multiple motivations could lead to the creation of a new label. The Rolling Stones’ contracts with Decca Records had expired, leading to Rolling Stones Records. Wilco left their label in 2010 to knowing what to expect but with multiple side projects the band announced dBpm Records, which now manages those projects. Necessity drove those groups to branch away from the status quo.

Now creating music, and pushing out the best of what you think is out there in the music world, is different to the world of craft beer in one respect. People don’t have to pay for good music, but they have to pay for good beer. Going into the word of running a record label, as seen by the examples above, involves a lot of capitol and industry experience. Up-and-coming groups are not just going to spawn off into their own label when no one gives a damn about them. You can’t just kick in the door and expect to keep up with the big boys, unless you have an ace up your sleeve. If you start a label because no one likes the music you are putting out except you, you may need to look into the mirror.

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