The big-label recording contract may no longer hold
Holy Grail status among local musicians looking for a way to get their
music heard by the masses.
At least two acts from Santa Barbara - a skate punk
band, and solo act Jennifer Terran - have found reasonable success in
distributing their music themselves.
While they differ in their views about the need
for assistance from a label, they stand together in not wanting to "sell
out" and give up creative control of their music in their quest for
finding a wider audience.
Fortunately, the wide-reaching Internet has helped
them attract enough fans to support both their high ideals and recording
Santa Barbara musician, vocalist and pianist Jennifer Terran,
said her music is paying for itself, without the need for her to tour
every day. The key, she said, has been her independence from music labels.
"It's sad to see artists who are on MTV and the
radio constantly, and are touring relentlessly, yet they're broke,"
because the recording industry is set up so that the labels usually
make all the money, Ms. Terran said.
She added that she's glad to hear that the major
labels are suffering from lower sales, because it means that they don't
have an exclusive market when it comes to earning the loyalty of music
fans. "I can understand (the labels) have their costs, but as a general
rule, it's more on the side of being unjust for artists," said the soft-spoken
That's why she decided to start her own record label,
Grizelda Records, in 1996.
In the past six years, she has financed three albums
on her own- "Cruel", "Rabbit" and her latest CD "The Musician, " released
in 2000. She sells the CDs on her Web site, jenniferterran.com, and
at her live shows. This direct sales method allows her to keep 100 percent
of the profits.
Her CDs have paid for themselves, she said, though
she provided no specifics on how many CDs have sold. Ms. Terran said
she's been able to support herself primarily through her music. She
also teaches hip-hop dance classes in Santa Barbara.
Until just recently, Ms. Terran said she had turned
down offers from record labels because she would have had to give up
too much control over her music. She did however sign a licensing deal
last week with Continental Record Services in Holland, the European
arm of independent label Rounder Records, based in Cambridge, Mass.
"CRS read a review of my album ("The Musician")
and they contacted me," Ms. Terran said. Signing with a record label
and doing a licensing deal are very different, she explained. Because
she produced and financed "The Musician" herself, CRS does not own the
copyright on it, she said. "They borrow the album for five years and
make a profit from it. They distribute it, promote it and maybe help
with touring, and ,otherwise perform all the functions of a label,"
Ms. Terran said.
When musicians sign a recording contract, they usually
sign over their rights to their music. The label owns the music, not the
artist, she said. "If you look on the back of a CD, you'll see the copyright
belongs to the recording company, not the artist," she explained. "That's
the cool thing about what I'm doing," said Terran. "I would feel pretty
uncomfortable if I had to sign my life over to a record label."