Alanis: Major Label System 'Not Working'

Representing the "Artist's Perspective" at the Plug.In conference today (July 23) in New York, Alanis Morissette decried the waning use of the Internet as a distribution channel for uncommercial talen

Representing the "Artist's Perspective" at the Plug.In conference today (July 23) in New York, Alanis Morissette decried the waning use of the Internet as a distribution channel for uncommercial talent and called on artists to rally for legislation that will make their music accessible to the largest possible audiences.

The current major-label system is "not working," Morissette said, because record companies are owned by conglomerates increasingly focused on nothing more than quarterly results. "While the music industry is fueled largely by artists, their point of view is left largely to the advocacy of others who might not have their best interests at heart," she said, adding that less than one-third of 1% of music releases sell enough copies to generate royalties for the artist. "In today's climate, if an artist doesn't sell a certain number of copies on his first release, they will be lucky to be supported at all by the record companies, which are so focused on the bottom-line numbers."

Meanwhile, the vast majority of artists never even achieve major distribution. "Commercial, uncommercial, even offensive art needs a level playing field," she said. "Many of the most popular artists of the last 30 years would have been dropped by the record company in today's climate. Artists today are not being given a chance to experience the normal ebbs and flows that result in an artist's evolution."

In Morissette's opinion, the Internet at one time offered great promise. Such companies as MP3.com and Napster, she said, "offered a link between artists and audiences and was a way for less-established artists to have a forum to reach those who will be touched by their art." Now, she said, those same companies have been "litigated, vilified, and ultimately consolidated to the point where these opportunities [don't exist]."

Pointing to Napster's relationship with Bertelsmann, and the acquisition of MP3.com and Emusic by Vivendi Universal, Morissette said that the Internet has become "a bottleneck for creativity," because the media conglomerates are attempting to apply traditional, profit-oriented business models to the new medium.

Congress, she said, can help preserve the Internet as a forum for uncommercial art to flourish. "I believe we have reached a point where legislative solutions have become necessary to acknowledge and protect our interests as artists," Morissette said, calling for legislation that "stimulates competition and protects the free flow of information -- laws that would support and foster new forms of distribution, subscription services, and make music accessible to the greatest number of people."

Meanwhile, Morissette called on artists to be proactive to achieve such goals. "I encourage all artists to educate themselves as a means to demonstrate to all interested parties our readiness to be part of this process," she said, adding that artists and fans should back businesses and political candidates who have a record and platform of supporting the arts.

Presented by Jupiter Media Metrix and Billboard magazine, the sixth annual Plug.In digital music industry conference continues tomorrow.