OPINION: Is dance music drowning in a sea of mediocrity? And what’s the answer?

Every week on this page, I feature a column called the Six On Saturday. It’s where I go through Traxsource and occasionally the other odd place and compile and review my favourite releases of the week.

The idea is partly inspired by the reviews columns that frequented magazines in the 1990s. The digital age means they’re no longer as prevalent, which I believe to be a shame. I don’t believe that playlists and charts are a substitute – they’re far too subjective.

I go onto Facebook and it’s not unusual for me to see posts along the lines of “I signed 3 tracks this week”. Chances are I’ve written something similar at some point. From a producer’s point of view, this bragging is somewhat understandable.

However, it also illustrates to me just how little risk there is for record labels these days. Time was that a label would have to pay for mastering, pressing costs, distribution and so forth. Unless you were certain you could make your money back, you didn’t invest.

Nowadays, many record labels increasingly adopt the approach of “if you throw enough mud at a wall, some of it will stick”. In other words, it doesn’t matter if this record bombed because we have no end of other ones we can try.

The result is an absolute quagmire of releases, many of which are of pretty inferior quality. Many potentially big releases end up getting lost amidst this because people simply don’t have the time to sift through all this music to find it.

I firmly believe that some of my vocal productions would have found higher chart positions and such if there wasn’t so much other rubbish to get through. It’s extremely frustrating and I’m far from being the only producer of original music to feel this way.

This system has no qualification control in it. There’s no money in it. Worse, it actually makes it next to impossible for anyone not running a label to get paid – thanks to clauses in contracts saying they will not pay royalties until they reach $100 or something like that.

So, what’s the answer. It’s simple. I wrote about it a while ago. It’s called advances over royalties. I described it in detail here. A brief synopsis, however…

“A record label could offer a one-off fee for the track at the start. This would be for the artist to keep and put the risk on the label. But this would then provide an incentive for record labels to push and promote their releases better, and to arguably release less material.”

Music better promoted. Less rubbish filtering through. Payments guaranteed for artists. Less work for labels in the long run. What’s not to like?

This current system isn’t working. Let’s change it before it stops working altogether.

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