It’s Still All About the Music… And Labels Remain at Its Heart

3 min readJan 10, 2019

Music is timeless, although it’s sometimes tempting to think otherwise. Art evolves. Genres change. New artists break on the scene and bring us new music. And so it is today. Certainly, fans can enjoy artists’ music in ways never before imagined. These new forms of distribution are exciting and have driven consumption of music to historic levels.

But at its core, it’s still all about the music. In fact, at a time when more music is being created and shared around the globe than ever before, the role of the record label remains central — from the way record labels find and help break artists to how they boost artists’ careers and amplify their vision.

A new report by Larry Miller, Music Business Program Director at NYU Steinhardt, tells this story. Based on more than 50 interviews with key players at a diverse group of labels, Miller provides an insider’s look at music today.

RIAA Chairman/CEO Mitch Glazier ©Elizabeth Miranda

Professor Miller’s report captures what I’ve seen first-hand — our labels still discover, develop, promote, market and connect artists with fans as much as ever, but in more ways than the past and often using radically new means to support artists.

The result is a growing, vibrant, and vital music ecosystem driven by label investment and action — one in which more artists are creating and more fans are listening. Labels have licensed hundreds of digital services around the world, delivering music to listeners virtually anytime, anywhere.

As this report details, labels are seizing the moment, investing more in A&R, marketing and other artist support activities (like data insights) than ever before, and beefing up their teams to support a vastly more complex, personal, and fast-paced music economy. More than 650 artists were signed to major labels in 2017, building on significant growth in 2016.

In today’s environment, it’s no wonder that artists seek to partner with label teams to achieve their dreams and succeed both creatively and commercially. This report shows why artists of all stripes seek to collaborate with a label instead of taking any of a multitude of other paths available, and why the most listened-to artists are backed by labels. Label professionals offer not only deep passion for music but also a “feel” for how to build and nurture careers using cutting-edge tools, global relationships and all the best information available.

The record company of today has music experts who combine music know-how with the ability to pull insights from the mountain of new data available about how fans are enjoying music — discerning emerging trends that can help shape artists’ rollout, touring and playlist strategy, among more.

Labels advocate for creators in the public square, work to prevent the weaponization of the internet and demand effective protection for music and its creators. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our songwriter and publisher partners to fight for a music ecosystem that works for everyone. Because, after all, music is a vital part of our national identity and it’s worth fighting for.

It’s an exciting time for music. We are grateful for the remarkable work of Professor Miller and urge everyone who is interested in how the music business works today to read this comprehensive, authoritative report.

Mitch Glazier, Chairman and CEO, RIAA




The RIAA is about music — everything from fostering its creative and financial vitality to honoring artists who achieve success.