"The label's role is a business version of child support: Wednesdays and every other weekend until your artists hit their teens and hate you."
Other label owners imagine even more dystopian scenarios. "As J.G. Ballard predicted, you will soon see musicians taking cruise ships and airliners hostage to hold private and compulsory listening parties," half-jokes David Thrussell of Omni Recording, which has uncovered vanguard audio explorers such as Bruce Haack. "Naturally, record labels will support artists to the maximum of their ability in these brave new marketing ventures." Slightly more seriously only slightly he lists his and Omni's future goals as at attempt to "pry as many strange or under appreciated records out of musty vaults and attics as we can until the Earth explodes in a cloud of tepid dust (not that far off)."
Some label reps see labels taking on an even more encompassing role in relation to musicians. "I think some of the larger labels will be demanding much more from their artists these 360-type deals where the labels want to own the artist, their recordings, their publishing, their gig rights, the merchandise, the outfits, all online activity, everything, everywhere," says Trunk. Hoagland of Smalltown Suerosund envisions a similar scenario in kinder, gentler, smaller terms. "My opinion is that labels should do more booking and publishing as well as releasing music. I think it is better for artists if you have one team or label work for you rather than three or four working against each other. I am not sure if 360-type deals work well with the majors, but the indie could make them into something cool."
"I know I'm a bit of a music geek about labels," admits Schulman, who once was more cynical about the industry machinations he's moved through. "But I think that as the group of people who actually buy music continues to shrink down to a core of those who really care about it, they'll continue to coalesce around the labels whose taste they trust."