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One question in particular warranted a longer response, so as promised, below is a reflection on working with record labels.
Myriad3 is very fortunate to be working with Alma Records. Alma Records is a small label based in Toronto, run by Peter Cardinali. We’ll skip the boring part about how we came to work with Alma; the heart of the question was “in today’s culture, how beneficial is it to be working with a record company?”
With the Internet, there are many options available to musicians to “get our music out there.” It’s possible for a single artist to wear many hats and act simultaneously as artist, engineer, producer, designer, distributor, publicist, promoter and publisher for a particular recording project. This seems like an attractive option because ultimately, the artist has creative and economic control over the entire project.
Of course, this may also be an artist’s only option. For artists who want to record and release their music, we’d encourage them to at least learn what options are available. This includes researching how the recording industry works, researching record companies that specialize in their genre and approaching those record companies to see what options are available to them.
It’s also important to consider goals and ambitions. An artist who strives to perform on main stages for major jazz festivals will likely need more than CD artwork and a Bandcamp page. An artist like Disasterpeace however, has a completely different strategy.
Before considering the value of working with record companies, it’s important to consider the value of working with people. Working with good people can create a situation where the value of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Myriad3 is a good example of this where, based on our individual strengths, we also contribute non-musical skills to managing the band (Ernesto books gigs, Chris writes grants, Dan designs etc.). In other bands, these responsibilities usually fall on one person, making it more difficult, time consuming and costly to manage a band. In Myriad3, we share the load and share the pie.
What would it take to perform on the main stage of a major jazz festival in Europe? With enough time, money and the right skills and relationships, it’s feasible that artists could do it on their own without the help of a record company or booking agency. Most likely though, there are too many gaps to be filled by one person. For example, between the three of us in Myriad3, we have very little experience with producing records, distributing records, publishing our music and booking performances in overseas markets (all pieces of the puzzle if we want to be a successful touring band). At some point, depending on an artist’s goals and ambitions, they’ll need a team. Instead of asking about the value or relevance of record companies, it’s better for artists to ask about the kind of team they need and who best fits certain roles.
Luckily for us, Peter Cardinali and Alma Records fill in many of our gaps. Peter, for example, has produced around 250 records. With him on our team, good, self-produced records turn into great records. In a sense, when working with Peter, we’re a collaborative quartet. Lines of communications are always open, ideas are constantly being bounced back and forth and every member of the team is contributing.
For early career artists, try to develop an understanding of what your non-musical strengths are and discover how they can be used to aid your career. If you think you’d like to work with a record company, remember that they’re made up of people, also with different strengths and weaknesses. Ask lots of questions. What trade shows do they attend? What kind of distribution network do they have? What relationships do they have? What are their goals and ambitions? The more you know about the industry, the better your questions will be.
Have any questions for us? Drop us a line!
Chris, Dan & Ernesto