Rcrd Lbl is the latest venture to embark on the quest for an ad-supported model to help turnaround the troubled music industry. It joins the still-struggling SpiralFrog, which started beta testing in Canada earlier this year. In a WSJ profile of Rcrd Lbl (it stands for Record Label), it’s clear that its backers are trying not to hype the venture too much, which involves allowing no charge, DRM-free music downloads supported by ads. The project, which is also one part blog, is being run jointly by indie label Downtown Records, home to hip hop artist Gnarls Barkley and alternative band Cold War Kids, and Peter Rojas, the founder of Gizmodo and Engadget.
With music sales plunging 14 percent this year, and disputes over how many listeners actually paid for Radiohead’s recent digital album hanging over the record business, Josh Deutsch, chairman of both Downtown Records and Rcrd Lbl, tells the Journal that the company is not trying to position itself as “the” answer to the industry’s woes. It’s just a possible answer, he says, adding “if you’re not trying to monetize the experience of sharing music, you’re slowly going out of business.”
The site is concentrating on offering only a few selections from its artists, who will not share in the ad revenues, as opposed to full albums. In lieu of ad sharing, artists are expected offer their songs to Rcrd Lbl in return for an advance that will range from $500 to $5,000 per track. And in order to keep its blog being a shill for Downtown Records’ artists, the label has distribution deals lined up with other indie companies Warp and Ed Banger. Rcrd Lbl will also feature music from unaffiliated artists on its blog, so long as it can get the rights to their songs. On the ad side, Rcrd Lbl’s initial sponsors include Richard Branson’s Virgin America airline, Nikon and Puma sneakers.