EMI's recent troubles clearly demonstrate that the music recording industry is not about to recover from the digital revolution caused by Napster. Of course, the recent economic crisis hasn't helped but the four major labels can only blame themselves for the current turmoil in the recording industry. They failed to notice the business opportunity available online. They got lazy and stopped innovating. Sony-BMG, Warner, Universal and EMI thought that they had it all figured out so they just sat back and waited for the money to come in. Unfortunately for them, recorded music sales continue to drop significantly which isn't good since 70% of their revenue depends on these sales (City A.M.). However, this doesn't mean that the recording industry is dead. People still and always will consume music. They are just consuming it in a different way. No one has found the perfect new business model but certain music entrepreneurs have discovered alternative ways to sustainably run record labels. One interesting case is Ed Banger Records, a successful boutique record label.
Pedro Winter (better known as Busy P) started Ed Banger Records in 2002. He used to manage Daft Punk and decided to reinvest the money he made from that career into a new venture. He leveraged the connections and insight he gained during his time with Daft Punk to create a new kind of record label. His first signing was Mr. Flash but Ed Banger Records now represents fourteen different acts. Although all of the artists on its roster are unique they can almost all be categorized under the electronica music genre. Indeed, Ed Banger Records played an important part in reviving the French electronic music scene with bands such as Justice reaching international stardom. However, Ed Banger only became an "it" label in 2006/2007. It took this boutique label a good 4 years to obtain the recognition that it deserved. Pedro Winter accomplished this by focusing on two key factors.
Unity: The Ed Banger family is known as the Ed Banger Crew. Busy P's the father figure and all of the artists on his record label are his kids. There's a feeling of belonging and camaraderie that you won't find at any major label and even at a lot of independent labels. By running the record label in a communal manner, Pedro Winter has created a tight-knit group of artists. An indestructible unit. During its beginnings, music fans often discovered the label before they discovered its roster. He's accomplished this by promoting the record label itself, rather than the individual artists on the record label. He launched the Ed Banger tours where the label's artists dj all together. Every act is on stage at the same time. Xavier from Justice will play a few tracks, then DJ Mehdi will take a turn, followed by Busy P. Unlike your typical dj party, they don't stick to specific fixed time slots for each dj set. If someone can think of a good track to spin next they simply take their turn at the decks. Ed Banger Records recently celebrated its 7th birthday. To mark the occasion they threw two parties, one in New York City and one in London. Justice, Busy P, DJ Mehdi and Breakbot djed in NYC, while Busy P, SebastiAn, So Me and Breakbot took care of the party in London. During these dj sets they'll often play each other's tracks. They are proud of each other's work and will often produce remixes for each other. This mutual respect amongst the artists on the label only increases the sense of unity. Busy P has been releasing Ed Rec compilations to further promote his label's group mentality. There have been three volumes so far. These Ed Rec tours and releases help promote the artists on Ed Banger Records as a whole. No act feels more important than the other. This family feeling has allowed Ed Banger Records' artists as well as its fan base to interact in a unique and special way.
Consistency: One of the big differences between Ed Banger Records and other record labels, is that Ed Banger Records has one artistic director. So Me is in charge of creating all of the label's artwork. He makes the label's record covers, flyers, posters and promotional merchandise. In other words, Ed Banger Records has its own one-man art department. This has allowed the label to create a consistent visual image. Indeed, although So Me makes different artwork for each recording artist on the label, each piece still has that signature So Me aesthetic. His work has a cartoon-y, pop art feel to it that electronic music fans instantly recognize. His artistic talent has transformed the records, along with Ed Banger's other products, into collectibles. You're not just buying music on a CD, you're buying an art piece too that you can display proudly. One just has to look at the Ed Rec discography collage on the label's myspace page to understand what I'm talking about. So Me's artwork for Ed Banger has become so popular that it has also led to some interesting brand extension opportunities for the label. The Ed Banger Crew and a few friends launched the Cool Cats website so that fans could buy any Ed Banger Records merchandise as well as other limited edition products. So Me's t-shirts have been selling extremely well. They are worn proudly by the Ed Rec nation (I can't imagine anyone wearing a Universal Music or Domino Records t-shirt, can you?). The t-shirts made for Justice's D.A.N.C.E video were also up for sale and instantly sold out. These t-shirts are released in limited quantities making them sought after clothing items. In addition, Ed Banger Records has collaborated with WESC to make headphones (or edphones), there is now an Ed Banger vs. Eastpak range of bags, and Justice and So Me made a limited edition Coca-Cola bottle. These business ventures have all helped further promote the Ed Banger brand.
Busy P is the key figure behind Ed Banger Records' success. He is the one who decided to start a record label that would operate differently than the ones in the past. His distinct approach has allowed his record label to differentiate itself from the rest. Even though his label was rapidly becoming popular he expanded in a reserved manner. By 2006, Ed Banger Records was the label of the moment. However, he didn't start signing any artist he could. He wanted to keep the "family" quite small and decided to grow at a slower pace so that he could continue managing the label properly. Just like in any business, growth is important but you want to grow in a sustainable manner. As Pedro Winter explained to Scion Radio: "...at Ed Banger the idea is to keep the family quite small because, you know, we are still a small team and I don't want to be crazy, because everybody is looking at us and because we are the label of the moment I don't want to become crazy and sign everything and everybody." It's by adopting this attitude that Ed Banger Records is still around today.
Of course, Ed Banger Records has made mistakes. At times, Busy P's label wasn't releasing new material fast enough to sustain its rapid ascension. Today's music consumers have short attention spans. In order to keep their attention, record labels must strategically and consistently release new music. Uffie's Pop the Glock was a huge hit in 2006 but the video was not released until 2009 and she has yet to release her debut album. She is no longer relevant, therefore her CD will most likely sell poorly. After the release of Justice's Cross, Ed Banger Records failed to release another album to continue generating hype around the label. And let's not even talk about the signing of DSL. This electro infused rap group just doesn't fit in. However, with the fairly recent signing of Breakbot things seem to be getting back on track. Breakbot released some well received mixes as well as an EP. In addition, a couple of Ed Banger Records' older artists are expected to release new material soon. A few of SebastiAn's new tracks have already found their way online. DJ Mehdi has teamed up with Riton to form Carte Blanche. Justice is also rumoured to be releasing a new album this year. If Busy P plays things right (as he has already done in the past), Ed Banger Records could once again become the label of the moment. Only time will tell.