Yesterday, Umphrey's McGee not only announced the details of their new album, but they also revealed they've started
their own label - Nothing Too Fancy Music. We've asked music industry veteran and
Umphrey's McGee Consigliere Syd
Schwartz to discuss the reasoning behind the band's decision to start their
Take it away, Syd...
So if you've been paying attention to the press since about 2002, the music industry is a
DISASTER. Piracy is rampant. Sales are in the toilet. Royalties from streaming services
are fractions of pennies and artists are struggling to make a living. Labels have been
firing staff left and right and the six major labels that started off this century are now
down to three. So who in their right mind would START a record label in this environment?
More importantly, why?
As a 25 year veteran of the music industry (many inside the walls of a major label) I
believe this is a strategically brilliant move on the part of Umphrey's McGee that
will only allow them to serve the music and the fans in bigger and better ways. Lets look
at a few scenarios to support this assertion:
1. Signing to a label is indentured servitude. They advance you some money to cover your
recording costs, but then EVERY decision has their input...from album art to release date
to what you give away to your loyal fans. And that isn't consistent with how Umphrey's
McGee operates. Not that Umphrey's isn't appreciative of the hard work and support of
previous label partners, but the compromises of prior album releases don't have to be on
the menu any longer. All decisions on music releases are 100% Umphrey's McGee. Oh, and
that money the label advanced you? You have to pay it all back and the label owns your
recordings until you do. And if you want to use those recordings elsewhere...lets say you
have an opportunity to put a track on a movie soundtrack, or you want to give away a
download of a studio track as part of a campaign, you need to get the permission of the
label. And sometimes labels say "no" because its not in the label's financial interest,
even if it is in the bands' best interest. That isn't the label trying to be schmucks
(usually), that's just how the business works if you're not in control of your own
2. Umphrey's having their own label means working on Umphrey's schedule. Which means if
they want to go into the studio again next month and drop a new album again next year,
there's no one telling them they can't. Studio "Rocker II" anyone?*
3. Umphrey's own label means there is a home for side projects, new solo albums and
reissues, special Umphrey's releases and perhaps someday even releases by others. Holiday
acoustic show box set anyone?*
4. The same team of managers, marketing, tech and UM office staff who work hard to ensure
great experiences for band and fans alike are running the label, with distribution to
stores and digital service providers handled by handpicked industry pros. So fans can
count on the degree of quality and care that they've come to expect out of Umphrey's McGee
areas when it comes to releases on their label.
5. Always on the cutting edge, having a label of their own provides the optimal scenario
for Umphrey's to experiment with new platforms, formats and technology to raise the bar on
recorded music experiences without 3rd party label partner issues, politics or compromise.
This allows Umphrey's to do what they've always done best - identify cool opportunities to
create great music experiences for fans and execute on them quickly. The fewer friction
points in that equation, the higher the likelihood for success and the great the chances
Is starting a record label a good idea for all artists? Absolutely not. But the right
combination of great music, the best fans on the planet, an amazing crew/office and the
#teamwork that brings them all together make the launch of Nothing Too Fancy Music a no-
brainer and a great next chapter in the history of Umphrey's McGee.
* - I'm not suggesting these things are promised, scheduled or even under
discussion....but a guy can dream, right?
Umphrey's McGee will release Similar Skin on June 10.