As paradigms in communication and digital distribution shift and evolve, music labels and producers everywhere are looking for better ways of making money. However, one gutsy and thoughtful label in New York City is going back to basics...literally.
Drew de Leon, a Queens, NY native, has developed a multi-faceted approach,through Blank Label Records to service artists and writers. Using integrated digital marketing and branding techniques, Drew has been able to enhance careers and to protect the financial value of creative work of musicians.
I had the chance of attending one of Blank Label's live performance events earlier this year and was able to arrange this Q&A interview with Drew.
What is the Blank Label? What does Blank Label do and how are you all different from your competitors?
Blank Label Records is a boutique music label focused on developing artists by offering services such as brand management, artist development, music publishing/licensing, and marketing.
I believe there a few things that make Blank Label Records standout. First, we make sure that the artists and their music come first. Before it used to be about "label versus artists" but we're passionate about staying true to the artist's vision and guiding them.
We're definitely not your traditional label. We're a hybrid of "creative agency" meets "artists management" meets "music publishing." The core of our business lies within applying branding principles to developing artists and being curators of music through our publishing.
Lastly, we're not about trends but really building for the future. The artist's growth is as equally important to our growth.
What are some of the big problems Blank Label solves?
Technology has become a gift and a curse for artists. For example, it's a lot easier for them to create and release music. However, the music landscape has become very very very saturated because of it! It's difficult to stand out and get your music heard even if you have great music to promote.
What we aim to do is teach artists that they must think of themselves as brands. For example, an artists's music represents a spoke of a wheel and everything from their social media presence, photos, website, etc are extensions of that central talent. Some of the questions we try to solve are: Are the extensions of the artist brand consistent across all platforms? Does the music match the branding?
How'd you come up with the name?
It's a funny story. I was in the bathroom doing what I normally do in the morning and like any epiphany, it hit me. I was thinking about the idea of a blank canvas and creating something from nothing. I believe that aligns with the mission of the Blank Label brand.
Now are you a musician? How'd did you end up starting Blank Label?
I'm not a musician but consider myself as a music curator! But I'm always looking for new innovative music that will be the next wave for the future.
Like most ideas, Blank Label was born because of a problem. Back in 2009, both my good friend and I left our careers in Finance for more creative endeavors. I decided to work for a Design Agency and my friend decided to DJ full-time.
My friend quickly realized how difficult it was to just to promote his music and book gigs. I took what I learned from the agency and helped him design his website, press kit, and social media assets. Eventually the idea of helping him became more real when he asked me to help manage him part-time.
What are the different types of clients or business verticals you have?
In terms of brand management, I work with a range of artists at different stages of their development. The range goes from the artists who have been touring for several years and have an established fan base, to artists that simply have music and need help with creatively marketing themselves. The artist development and marketing verticals are closely integrated with the Brand Management vertical.
In regards to Publishing/Licensing, it's really its own business vertical. I'm blessed to work with an incredible group of singer/songwriters and producers. I work closely with them to create the best original music to pitch to major label artists and licensing opportunities like TV and Film synchs.
About how many writers or artists do you generally work with at a given time?
We currently manage 2 songwriters full-time and consult 5 artists at the moment. We're continuing to build long-term relationships with artists for consulting on different aspects of their brand. In addition, we want to continue to build out our team of songwriters and producers.
Outside of your current work, is there anything, in industry or outside of industry, that makes you curious?
Technology and startups are also a big passion of mine. I genuinely like building things from scratch and taking processes and making them more efficient.
What big challenges do you see on the horizon for song writers and musicians as technologies and paradigms shift?
I think the biggest challenge for songwriters is the shift in revenue generation. Before it was about selling music but now it's evolved to streaming. With these new revenue opportunities, it creates complexities on how songwriters are making money.
What are your guesses on how these challenges will be overcome?
I believe proper education and transparency will be key to songwriters and producers. They need to understand the "math" of how they're making money off their songs with these new technologies.
Drew de Leon is founder of Blank Label Records, a NYC-based music management and creative service company for musicians. Follow him on Twitter @thew3rd
Medvis Jackson is a web designer at Hindsite, curator at Kulchah and avid cricket fan. You can follow him @medvisjackson for his random thoughts.