By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
But the secret to survival in this weird, jangled, piracy-ravaged world isn’t cynical attempts to build a “brand.” Even Steve Aoki, despite his moneyed pedigree and a brand-building ability so strong that one might reasonably speculate he once received a Gray’s Hipster Almanac from a DeLorean-aided time-traveling old man named Biff, started the same way as everyone else, in a dingy apartment stacked with crates of records, struggling to break even, doing it for the love.
“You have to do it because you love the music,” Aoki says. “You have to want to make the bands that you sign as big as possible, not because of the money, but because this is the music that you’ve chosen to share with the world, this is the music that you want people to hear.”
Yet despite the smothering dust storm of Internet hype, despite the fact that a generation of teenagers will grow up thinking that it’s their Al Gore–given right to get free music, no matter how much piracy threatens to doom the major-label record industry, everything always reverts back to the source: the music itself.
With 15 years spent in the industry, including several spent running his own independent label, Mike Caren, the executive vice president of A&R at Atlantic Records, takes the long view. While he’s not certain this is any better or worse of a time to be an independent label, Caren is little surprised that an increasingly Internet-savvy generation of label heads has lunged out of the miasma of the Web.
“Great music is always going to win. A lot of indies don’t have great music, a lot do. It’s a game of batting averages and connecting with people. Before there were blogs, there were fanzines, and before there were MP3s and MySpace pages, there were mixtapes and 7-inches. It’s all just reinvention,” says Caren. “People with good taste that are ahead of the curve will always want to introduce new music. It’s a very entrepreneurial generation. When they see an opportunity, they’re going to go for it.”