Nettwerk Music Group - The Basics:
- What: Record label and management company Nettwerk Music Group
- Where: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
- Founded by: Terry McBride and Mark Jowett
- Founded: 1984
Nettwerk Productions, a management company and record label, was founded in June of 1984 in Terry McBride’s small apartment in Vancouver with business partner Mark Jowett. "There were these great bands in Vancouver that didn't have managers," says McBride, plus it provides Jowett's band, Moev, with a label to release their output. Nettwerk built up their management side and moved into the major league with artists such as Sarah McLachlan and The Barenaked Ladies.
Sarah McLachlan and A New Management Model:
When McLachlan's label more or less gave up on promoting her third album in the US due to disappointing sales, McBride took over the promotion of her album and by working city by city built up a following for her across the States. Her album eventually sold over a million copies. This was a break from the traditional role of a management company, who usually negotiate a deal then leave the promotion to the label. Nettwerk now has a long list of artists both on the label and whom they represent as managers including Avril Lavigne, The Stereophonics and Dido.
In 1996 McBride, along with McLachlan, founded Lilith Fair, an all female travelling concert tour – unheard of at the time. McLachlan was frustrated at the sexism in the North American music industry – many radio stations refused to play two female artists back to back nor promote concerts with an all female line-up. Lilith Fair ran for three years, featured over 60 artists, including Sheryl Crow, Sinead O'Connor and The Dixie Chicks and was the highest grossing travelling concert tour in 1998.
DRM (Lack Of):
Nettwerk have been critical of the industry's previous insistence that it will only supply tracks digitally with restrictive DRM technology. As well as being available from the usual download sites, Nettwerk also provide provides track as DRM-free MP3s and high quality FLAC files via it's own website and has made track available from alternative download platforms, such as Amie Street where tracks are priced according to the their popularity – the more popular a track the more expensive it becomes.
RIAA Disputes and Next Generation Music Company:
DRM isn't the only way Nettwerk has taken on the traditional structure of the music industry. When the RIAA took a teenager to court for allegedly "illegally" downloading tracks, including tracks by Nettwerk represented artist Lavigne and MC Lars, McBride stepped in to defend her. He wrote an open letter, stating that "Litigation is destructive. We are a creative community, so this approach makes no sense at all. I cannot envision any artist who I have the privilege of representing suing a fan for sharing their music." He further showed his support by funding legal representation for the the teenagers family and agreed to pay any fine that the RIAA levied against them. He believes that music downloading is good for the artists Nettwerk represents and that until the recording industry has adjusted it's business model to accommodate the changes in technology, fans will continue to download music illegally.
McBride's has said that Nettwerk is no interest is no longer in selling CDs, but in selling music in every form imaginable and using the internet to create new and inventive ways for fans to consume the music, something that may not be possible whilst working with major labels. He encouraged The Barenaked Ladies, when their contact with major owned label Reprise expired, to set up their own label, and has talked about floating bands intellectual property rights on the stock market in order to attract investment. In order to better facilitate bands taking control of their own intellectual property, McBride has created the Nettwerk Music Group which combines the record label, management and publishing companies into one entity. Partly in recognition of this, Wired Magazine dubbed Nettwerk Music Group the “next-gen music company.” Whether McBride's business model is proved right time will tell – but with him at the helm it's certain that Nettwerk will continue to be an innovative part of the music industry.
Learn more about Nettwerk and the concepts in this article: