Roundtable discussion: ‘Labels can steer artists in the right direction’

In late March 2024, Entertainment Business hosted a Roundtable Discussion on the theme of labels. At the editorial office in Hilversum, Guillaume Warmerdam (Make Waves/LAB Music), Kees van Weijen (STOMP), Colin Heikens (NRGY Music), Mattijs van Welzenis (Cloud 9 Music), Bo de Raaff (CTM Music), and Stan Wittenberg (Tribal Music Group) deliberated over five thought-provoking statements and questions. In doing so, they provided a lively and insightful picture of the role labels play in 2024 and the challenges they face.

You can read the whole article (in Dutch) here (pdf, 1MB).

Statement 1

With the rise of DIY recording and distribution platforms, labels must reconsider their role: are they still essential for artist success, or can artists now thrive independently without their intervention?

Kees van Weijen: “Streaming platforms release about 120,000 new tracks daily. How does a DIY artist stand out among all those songs? Labels have experience and can guide you. They’re often also sounding boards. Eventually, successful DIY artists need experienced people around them, especially regarding accounting as success grows.”

Statement 2

The label industry still has progress to make in terms of diversity.

Kees van Weijen: “I strongly advocate for more diversity. At STOMP, we’ve been taking steps to include more women and people of color in our industry. But there’s still a long way to go. Who’s ambitious and shows it?”

Statement 3

Artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithm-curated playlists pose a threat to the creative process and labels.

Kees van Weijen: “We welcome the European AI law, though it’s in its infancy. AI is both an opportunity and a threat, with the latter prevailing. Concrete legislation isn’t yet fully in place. YouTube has said they’re actively using AI but won’t tamper with copyright rules.”

Statement 4

Mental pressure (among both musicians and industry employees) has increased in recent decades. Labels should monitor this more closely and actively contribute to a healthier work environment.

Kees van Weijen: “Mental pressure is a societal problem, not new. Five years ago, at a conference in Norway, a manager said their artist’s first album was a massive success, but the second flopped, leading to a breakdown. The manager blamed the label for lost income and costs. I disagreed. Many factors contribute. For instance, if an artist partied excessively after initial success and then suffered from writer’s block? I believe the label director isn’t solely responsible. Nonetheless, monitoring during A&R meetings is vital. With employees, you always bear responsibility, creating a healthy work environment, and responding promptly to issues. …… Working in the evenings or weekends is part of the job. But clarity is essential beforehand. Many want to work in our industry. During interviews, it’s crucial to be clear: this isn’t a 9-to-5 job.”

Statement 5

TikTok and other social media platforms are a boon for artists and a curse for labels.

Kees van Weijen: “During the most recent IMPALA board meeting, we decided to stand in solidarity with Universal Music. We’re not saying affiliated labels’ music should leave TikTok, but there must be clarity. We represent 6,500 independents in Europe and believe they should be paid by TikTok too.”

“We represent 6,500 independents in Europe and believe they should also be paid by TikTok.”

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