In a sign of things to come, the venerable dance label, Ultra Records, headed up by CEO Patrick Moxey and GM David Waxman, have signed a distribution deal with Warner Brothers Records distribution arm, Alternative Distribution Alliance, for North America.
In an era where the music market is so fragmented that a double-platinum album is looked at as a huge success, record labels may be influenced by Wired editor, Chris Anderson’s recent book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. Anderson’s book takes a look at the record business among other markets and points out that the aggregate sum of all minor music sales total more than the sum of all popular hits.
The shuttering of New York’s Strictly Rhythm Records spelled trouble for dance music in the early part of the decade. Without a hit record to feed into the major label system, Mark Finklestein’s dynastic label made him and his staff wealthy as the bunny paid out a handsome sum to purchase its catalog of music as well as the label.
That was, I believe, before Warner Brothers purchased ADA, which would have been a better fit for the Strictly as a distribution partner. Mainly because ADA understands dance and electronic music. Having had to traverse the WEA Distribution system was most likely the straw that broke the camels back. Accountants at Warner Brothers probably wondered who was this little label selling a few hundred thousand, when they needed to break records in the millions to contribute to the mother ship.
The same thing happened with the Warner Brothers, Kinetic Records partnership. The label, which broke Paul Oakenfold and Sandra Collins in the U.S., is a shell of its former self and has made little impact today.
Can Moxey, Waxman and Ultra carry the torch for the rest of the dance music industry in today’s volatile music market? I think so. Every since Moxey hired Waxman, the label has been slowing building a tremendous catalog of mix compiliation series on its own and with its across the pond partner, Ministry of Sound.
Recently, Ultra signed Tiesto, which is akin to Kinetic’s signing of Oakenfold or FFRR’s signing of Goldie (speaking of FFRR, wouldn’t it be cool if that label made a come back!). Ultra has also inked deal’s with Kaskade, which is a key signing as the DJ/Producer’s track, Here I Am made it into a key scene in the the recent hit film, The Devil Wear’s Prada.
I think the powers that be at Ultra understand that it’s not only record sales alone that are going to keep you in business. It’s publishing and royalties over the long term of an artist’s career, which are equally if not more important. Having someone like Tiesto or Kaskade produce music that ends up in car commercials or movies can pad the label’s bottom line and help them to do development deals with up and comers that may not have been possible before.
Another big name signing is Victor Calderone. Although not as big as Tiesto globally, Calderone has made a mark for himself as a popular circuit DJ. His sound crosses over into the anthemic-oriented gay market, but his music is also digestible for a Crobar or Roxy heterosexual punter who probably won’t visit Ibiza this summer, but they’ll sure spend money at the Borgata in Atlantic City or travel to Vegas for a weekend of clubbing.