We've all been there; you know someone in a band, or been in a band yourself, been to a few local shows, maybe driven out of town for a while just to catch the best slot you've (or they've) ever been given. But no matter how much bands seem to fight in the underground, there doesn't seem to be a lot of poles in the water.
There's no need to tell you the condition that the music industry is in overall. Sales are down, bands and artist's aren't producing half of what they used to a decade ago, and sub-genres have become so obscure that it's almost impossible to find a niche that's both creative and unhindered by "boundaries" that make experimentation almost impossible.
Green Day transcended genres for almost 20 years, never producing the same line of work twice (unless you count Uno! Dos! Tre! but technically they're the same album- or at least that's how Reprise sees it).
So how necessary are record labels anymore? Well, you can take a hard look at some of the independent bands circulating the scene right now. NJ groups like Archie Alone, Venus The Ocean, Weirdface, Time Will Tell, The New Royalty- just to, you know, name a few, seem to be doing just fine on their own.
Getting into big shows isn't a matter of representation anymore, it's a matter of who you know, and how far you're willing to stretch to get there. With more media management companies becoming more open to taking on underground musical groups (for a price), recording studios and good engineers willing to work on the cheap for good production value- all you really need is to think cleverly.
There's a growing number of college students these days studying management, business, and PR that would kill to have a successful band on their resume these days, as well. So, are record labels necessary?
Taking what we know from the ADTR dispute, and the fact that they needed legal permission to release their own content, speaks world's about the answer. Labels may still be around for another decade or so, but nobody can argue that musicians' dependence on them has severely deteriorated.
Without a benefactor, bands won't be able to rise as quickly as they do, but why would you want to give up the humbling wonder that is the NJ underground anyway? We have the best fans at our local shows, and have the most fun doing it. Bands around here may never make a trillion dollars, or have a platinum record, but back in the day, it was about having the tour, road food, and doing what you love, and that's way more important than any corporate money to help us get there.
Do your part, NJ. Get out there and support local music so that we don't see our scene die. With the closing of venues in our areas, things have gotten tough. But while the national music scene begins to collapse under the weight of its own mistakes, we don't stand stronger than any storm. We stand battered, but not beaten.