Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 November 2015
From an economic point of view, the business of record labels until recently boiled down to managing a portfolio of artists, with successful stars bringing the label enough money to recoup investments in market flops. The decline in record sales has called this model into question and forced labels to look for new sources of revenue. Employing qualitative data gathered in Poland, this paper demonstrates how labels react to adverse market conditions and what determines these reactions. The paper shows that these reactions include the monetisation of the relationship that a label has with artists through signing 360° deals, the commercial exploitation of artists’ brand names, and concentration on niche markets, either foreign or format-based (e.g. the market for vinyl). The paper concludes that record labels, regardless of which approach they choose to deal with the adverse market conditions, still think in terms of managing a portfolio of artists. What is more, there is no universal strategy which can be applied by every label to deal with declining record sales.