Moses Boyd on his utopian vision for independent music

Moses Boyd on his utopian vision for independent music

Moses Boyd has shared his ideas about “changing the structure” of how record labels work in the new issue of Music Week.

Jazz drummer, composer and producer Boyd stars alongside Arlo Parks on the cover of our Indie Takeover edition and said that he wants to do more than the music industry has traditionally offered.

The technological advancements over the past five years make it easier to do your own thing, but it’s still not easy,” said Boyd, who set up Exodus Recordings to release his music. “I’m seeing a lot more young artists being empowered by that and seeing it as an option, whereas when I started music it was kind of, like, you find a label and hope for the best. I didn’t want that.” 

Boyd won the UK Independent Breakthrough category at last night’s AIM Awards and is shortlisted for the Mercury Prize for his album Dark Matter. Since his time on a mentorship programme at the Steve Reid Foundation, when he was encouraged to start a label by Floating Points and Four Tet, Boyd has been developing his vision for independent music. 

“I had no idea. I was like, ‘What is a lacquer?’ ‘Who do I get it mastered with?’ and all of this stuff,” said Boyd. “But then I realised [the label] was what I wanted to do. I didn’t just want to hand my music over to a label and let them do their thing, I wanted to understand the mechanics. I’m not Sony, I’m not EMI, my relationships are my contact book and I’ve got the music, that’s what I lean on.”

I’m not Sony, I’m not EMI, my relationships are my contact book and I’ve got the music

Moses Boyd

Boyd has no immediate plans to expand the label, but he is considering working with other artists in the future.

“The thing I’ve been struggling with for a long time is that I’m not sure I want to be on the same business model all the other labels are,” he told Music Week. “Obviously, people have to eat and pay bills, but I feel like there’s an alternate structure that I haven’t figured out yet.

“For the moment, it’s still just me and my music and I’m OK with that. I’ve got to work out a way I’m comfortable with, a different way of how a label operates. What does a label do in 2020 that independent artists can’t do for themselves? I’m not saying there aren’t things, but more and more I’m asking that question. Maybe we need to change the structure.”

Boyd said he wants to champion artists that excite him and said he would offer his skills as a writer, producer and DJ to acts, if they wanted. He also spoke about rights ownership, D2C and streaming.

“For the artists, I’m very big on ownership,” he said. “I’ve seen some contracts and offers and I don’t believe a label can demand that they own a file or intellectual property for so long when they didn’t create it, it’s never sat right. 

“It doesn’t happen so much with smaller independent labels, but with the majors it’s another form of slavery in my opinion. So, how do you create a system that’s fair? Are we going to go off DSPs and create a whole new world for artists? Where maybe you’re not on Spotify, you’re centred around Bandcamp and your own shop that you learned to code and build yourself that operates on a D2C basis. You grow and you mine the data, it’s ethical and you create a fanbase from the ground up, relying less on social media and creating your own system. Maybe there’s an alternate way for new artists, with fairness mentorship and artist development.”

Boyd – who played his last gig shortly before lockdown was enforced – described 2020 as “a rollercoaster”. He said his “independent mindset” can help when dealing with problems in the music business.

“I’m trying to figure out how to do as much as I can on my own with my own system, that is freedom,” he said. “There are so many issues with the music industry, whether it’s racism, misogyny, everything. So, build your own system. If more people do that, the landscape will be forced to change.”

Read the full interview in the new edition of Music Week, out now. Read the full interview in the new issue of Music Week out now. Subscribers can read it online here. Look out for more from Arlo Parks and Moses Boyd on this week.

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PHOTO: Stony Johnson

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