While most independent labels are at the cutting edge in using all the new digital tools to market their projects, some executives lamented the erosion of traditional marketing vehicles, like brick-and-mortar retail, during a "Indie Crash Course" panel, which kicked of the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers annual convention on May 15.

John Palmer, president of Lansing, Mich.-based Megawave Records said trying to break a record in today's market is a challenge. "How do we translate our success of having the No. 3 on the World chart," he asked. "Without an account like Tower Records anymore that is difficult."

Epitaph head of sales Jon Strickland said that the retail landscape is bleak and, while its nice to get radio, Epitaph doesn't depend on it. "Not at all." Focusing on brick-and-mortar retail, he said, "The retail landscape is transforming faster than at any time in my career. A lot of the major names might not be doing record retail this time next year."

Big box retailers have been downsizing their music selection and record labels might be helping that trend. "A lot of executives in the business are waiting for the CD to be over and are hastening that outcome by their decision."

But he noted that Tom Waits' "Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards," was the artist first gold record in his career and only 5% of sales were digital.

Yet, despite the rise of new social media sites and other new marketing tools, breaking a new band is incredibly difficult. "It is easier to reach the older audience than it is to reach the 15-year-olds, who all embraced the digital revolution, are exposed to so much noise and who have a short attention span," said Strickland.

While social media networks are great are great for marketing music, as more come along and get popular, they may have a shorter lifespan. For example he says MySpace, while still important, is diminishing as a tool. As new sites become popular and others wane, record labels may have to reinvent the business every day, he said.