The collision of the music industry and the Internet is fairly fascinating. It’s a mix of technological innovation, consumer frustration, and easy access combining to completely reform an entire industry. So how does a label like Sub Pop, partially owned by Warner Music Group and mostly focused on indie rock, survive? By scoring cat videos.
Sub Pop’s head of A&R, Tony Kiewel, has an interesting interview up on Engadget where he discusses how Sub Pop, which is largely left to do its own thing, is trying to figure out the Internet. Kiewel is surprisingly honest in a few respects:
YouTube…There [are] two options. There’s the block option: ‘this content has been taken down.’ We, as a label, have another option, and that’s to monetize it. They want to use this Band of Horses song in a cat video? Go for it. But send whatever ad revenue [that] comes our way.
Kiewel also notes that the imploding industry model has actually been pretty good to Sub Pop; the label’s entire idea of leaving the artists alone and just finding the “rivers of pennies” as Kiewel puts it apparently has served the label in good stead. But he also notes that no label can afford to ignore a revenue stream anymore, no matter how small; Spotify may offer little revenue compared to terrestial radio, so little Radiohead walked away in protest, but more people will play their songs on Spotify.
So, essentially, if the cat videos are what keeps the label in business and signing acts, that would appear to be the future. So, do your part: Score a cat video to the Shins today.