If artists want to break from the record label system and go it alone in today’s digital space, they’d better prepare to work for it, according to today's OnHollywood conference panel called “Breaking Away from the Music Label.”

With Quincy Jones III moderating—and featuring such speakers as rapper Chamillionaire; Sha Money XL, founder of Money Management Group; Kevin Black, from the chairman’s office of Warner Brothers Music; and Chaka Zulu, CEO of Disturbing Tha Peace Records, among several others—the panel agreed that artists and managers can no longer rely on just a few MySpace friends to launch a career.

“Back in the day I had to drive 200 miles to Cleveland to sell CDs,” said Chamillionaire. “Nowadays, you don’t have to do as much work. But people get lazy. They think all they need to do is get on MySpace and you get a hit.”

“You can be hot on the Internet, but not hot on the street,” agreed Black. “You should always hit the Internet, but if you just rely on that, it’s just as bad as just relying on the street, or just radio. You need balance to make it happen.”

But the panel disagreed on whether the Internet was a platform for marketing or monetization of music.

“In order for the Internet to be the channel it can be, we need more success stories,” said Zulu. "It’s more of a marketing thing for now. The Internet is like a new street team. It’s a passive customer. The Internet can pacify to just accepting certain elements of the music, but that’s for us to fix. We have to catch up to what the Internet is offering us."

However, Sha Money pointed to the tremendous success of ThisIs50.com, 50 Cent’s own social networking site. After two weeks, he said the site generated more traffic than all of BET.com.

“It’s both revenue and promotion,” he said. “You have to keep track of your fans. You can feed them content and make money from all the widgets you put on the site. You’ve got ad and sponsor downloads. You can sell mixtape downloads. It’s immediate and direct and you want to get to these people as fast as possible.”

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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