OPINION: Odd Future’s Record Label Dosen’t Change The Game…Yet

by Winston "Stone" Ford

With all the buzz coming out of the Odd Future camp lately, the obvious next question was? Who was going to sign them?

Let’s face it, the record industry wanted nothing to do with Odd Future until they saw teenage girls from Iowa writing “FREE EARL” on their chests and frat boys crashing the gates to get to their shows. There is huge moneymaking potential with these guys, not maybe through traditional radio channels, but through touring, writing, produciton and backend. If the industy got a piece of their sold out shows, and eventual publishing royalties it could position itself as cool, to a generation that thinks they don’t get it. So of course they came calling. Jay-Z. Puffy. Steve Rifkind. But their manager kept everything on the table, even putting clothing labels like Supreme on the same pairing as say Universal Music Group.

However today it was revealed that after a long tedious process (er, tacos with Jay-Z), the group decided to launch their own independent label, with distribution from Sony Music/RED Distribution:

“It’s based on getting the distribution deal we’ve always envisioned that allows the group to “sign themselves” to their own company and keep their masters. They will have 100% creative control of all aspects of their music, art, and release schedule with no 3rd party participation in outside business. Freedom and ownership was the whole point. Red and Sony know that its in everyone’s best interest to maintain the group’s authenticity and control. They built it, they deserve it. There’s no cheesy hooks or fluorescent liquor product placements in the works.. It’s about to be fun.. and different.. “

It’s an interesting concept, and with Odd Future the first high profile group to make this move, it foreshadows a shift to this type of record deal in the future. And let’s face it, this deal is less about moving units and more about publishing and touring, which is the only growth industry in the biz right now. However, it dosen’t change the game yet. Truth be told, Odd Future still dosen’t have the national name recognition to make a serious dent is record industry profits, and I doubt that the traditional label channels (radio, MTV, etc) were ever in their long term options.

Yes, this is a game changer, but if, let’s say Rebecca Black did this, and was able to go platinum, get radio airplay, and keep her masters, the labels are screwed. Someone who could sell on that volume level would change the industry for good. Even now, Odd Future dosen’t maintain that mainstream level of popularity.

For now however, this is the first step for a new music business model. But where does this leave the Interscopes, Def Jams and Roc Nations of the world? I think the largest damage right now might be to their egos and brands. These entities are going to have to step up and innovate to remain competitive. Kids of the next generation won’t vie for the major label deal like ours did before (in fact, major labels were hiding the fact that some of their biggest names were signed). Roc Nation is already there, managing a diverse roster of clients in addition to their label operations, and other labels need to follow suit.

It’s a new world out there. These new business models are not proven. It still the Wild West out there. However, if it’s a standoff, Odd Future just fired the first shot.