Internet piracy has played its part in bringing down the major labels, but Edwards says the executives must share the blame. Born in the 1950s, the first pop record labels were small businesses run by tough, hard working owners. When mass music began to produce big profits in the 1970s, the labels were still controlled by founders – men like Chris Blackwell at Island Records, Chris Wright at Chrysalis and Richard Branson at Virgin Records. These were entrepreneurs, who had their own money invested in the business, understood how to control wayward artists and kept an eye on the costs.
Then consolidation began, and record labels joined the stock exchanges or were bought up by big corporations. Executives started to write themselves big cheques, seduced by the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. The CD arrived and as well as selling new releases, companies sat back and raked in the profits as fans replaced their vinyl collections with silver discs. There was enough money coming in to keep everyone happy, and the men at HQ didn’t ask too many questions about the threat from newer technologies. Then file sharing took off and the music stopped.