Alan McGee: Why I'm giving up my label

With a little money, the internet and some live gigs, new acts can be successful - without the big record companies. In fact, it's the end of the road for the majors, says Alan McGee.

The last 10 years have seen big changes in the music industry that have turned it on its head. Throughout the Eighties there were 12 major labels and between 20 and 30 reputable indies that you'd consider using. The switch to digital has meant that now, as soon as a record goes to promo, it's on the internet for anyone to take six weeks before its official release.

So now there are just three surviving major labels, all of which are going to have to stop kidding themselves that they will develop into multimedia entertainment companies that can manage bands and share in live income. This could happen in as little as two years' time. The accountants at these big labels are eventually going to work out that they need to stop spending millions on signing new bands, and drop all but the biggest acts. It isn't easy to get a superstar and labels are trying to get lucky with new bands, when the reality is that it can be a total lottery. When they do work out that the new band business isn't for them, they will sack 90 per cent of their staff, make a fortune from being back-catalogue suppliers and, having made huge profits, make the shareholders happy by selling for billions.

A shift like this is going to leave more and more power with the bands, alongside the developing multimedia operators. There are bands now who are selling out big venues and having chart success on a level that they would no where near have been able to achieve a decade ago - all without the help of majors, and often with no label at all. With the losses in CD sales through burning, playing live is more important than ever and it's possible to make a decent income doing this.

The great thing is that you can't replicate a live show - which is good for the fans, artists and managers - and you can make a lot of money. The majors know this and are trying to get in on bands' live incomes. But why should an established band with the popularity of Radiohead or Oasis give a label 50 per cent of their income? Why even give them 1 per cent? These are already massive live bands. Now, when three million sales is what classifies a hit - compared with the 20 million that Alanis Morissette and Oasis would sell 10 years ago - it's inevitable the power is going to lie with bands promoting themselves. I believe a great deal in MySpace's power - we've seen Koopa and Enter Shikari break this year through creating fanbases on the website - and the number of people it gives you access to without spending anything on marketing. It's about owning your own copyright, and maintaining it, which is where bands like The Sessions are getting ahead.

The story of how I met The Sessions is simple and, not surprisingly, it was online, through MySpace, after the front man, Taz Allie, messaged me. They caught my attention the first time I saw them and I couldn't believe that they weren't doing more, in terms of playing live and promoting themselves.

I started to put them on more and more at my London clubs, Death Disco, The Queen is Dead and Now We're Off To Rehab. It was through my clubs that I became mates with them and now I DJ with Taz, too. That's when the labels came knocking, offering them all these record deals.

It wasn't long before I told them that they could do all these supposedly great things being offered to them themselves. When Taz worked out what he could do with a bank loan, I offered to advise him. I'm not their manager but once I got talking to Taz, he was so genuine and sincere I offered to help as a friend.

You have to respect them for taking out a loan and putting their balls on the line. They deserve every bit of good press they get. They're all ordinary guys - the drummer is a window cleaner - and I like them because their expectation of the music business is zero. They have been on the go for three or four years, but I think that because they aren't an obvious band they fell on deaf ears for a while and no one seemed to care. Since they have started playing at my clubs they're becoming increasingly popular.

In terms of what's happened with their single, "What Is This Feeling?", I offered to try to get it into a couple of films in order to pay for it, as synchs are a good way to make money. They then took out the loan, made the video for a grand and went about pressing 500 singles, and it's barely costing them anything. Following that, Cherrystones came in to remix the track as a favour and the end result is world class.

The Sessions' version is great, being influenced by The Charlatans, Primal Scream, Happy Mondays (and they remind me of Curtis Mayfield doing Sweet Exorcist in 1974), but how Cherrystones have reworked it with Taz's song writing is amazing. The media are going to be all over it. So with no major, and some balls, The Sessions are going to show everyone how it's done.

As sources of new talent, the majors are still delusional about the future. Due to the high risk involved in breaking a new band, they have become more conservative and, because they haven't embraced the technology that's changed the business as much as the bands have, they are being shut out.

The only thing a major has over an independent is money. Nowadays, creating a dedicated fanbase is what is most important for bands, and they do this by playing live and getting an online following. I book new acts for my clubs through MySpace because it's a good way to get in contact with thousands of bands.

When major labels start promoting a new act they are short-sighted; they want immediate hits. This is what is destroying them, that and the fact that they never loved music enough.

I am running down my label, Poptones, as I don't believe in owning a record company any more - bands should own their own copyrights.Looking to the future, as the majors decline, more bands will recognise that it's the real music-lovers who will help them succeed - the management, the live agents and the sponsors.

The majors should have paid more attention to what was happening in the music industry and sorted out their business model. They didn't, and now it is killing them.

The Sessions release 'What Is This Feeling' on 18 June through P&C Indio Records

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?