The Medium label was an ambitious venture into self-publishing at a time when technology was still a few years off from providing quality digital recording as well as effective online distribution. Had things been a little different by the mid 90’s I think we would have been able to produce a more interesting output and potentially been able to reach a larger audience through online global marketing which is standard practice now, but we did our best with what we had at our disposal. Actually ‘_ism’ and ‘Pulse’ were funded by record labels so these were exceptions, but ‘Stone To Flesh’ wasn’t and I feel it shows a degree of compromise on quality, but even more so with the early releases.
I think the one thing you do get with artist owned labels is better customer care because there’s a sense of pride and personal responsibility in selling your work directly to your audience and not treat it purely as a business, as a middleman would.
Samadhisound had bigger ambitions as a label and conceptually had very high ideals, aiming to introduce alternative artists and in-house artwork that would provide more of a label identity, however the business model was flawed in that the terms were highly in the artist’s favour and this meant that the lack of label profits made for a less than dynamic structure behind the scenes. A lack of incentive really. Taking on various obscure and unknown artists (who were always unlikely to sell in high volume) was a lot to ask of people’s time without allowing profits from the higher selling albums to be redirected back into the label to fund the cause. So rather predictably Samadhisound ended up being stripped back to only releasing works by Sylvian, which is essentially what Medium Productions was to myself, Barbieri & Karn. It’s the bare minimum a label can be, only catering for the work of the artists who run it.
There ought to be more of a level playing field but music labels aren’t ever able to offer this due to their business models, and to this end I’d like to see music labels weened out of servicing the music industry entirely to be replaced by new platforms that embrace automation. Distribution, profile and exposure are essentially what a label needs to provide these days (as many artists now fund their own recordings) but will artists still be expected to pay huge shares of their income for this ‘privilege’ if automated systems can do all the work without bias or favour, or will that stranglehold always exist? I would hope not. Perhaps music sales might one day be allowed to prioritise a decent livelihood for future generations of all creators of music, be they popular or alternative, rather than the people in the businesses of music whose motivation is never aligned with offering choice.