But more than a simple issue of finances and revenues is the issue of the product that Springsteen is selling, other than the records the labels are charged with marketing. In the tradition of rock and roll, a tradition that Springsteen is now a large part of, the live performance is the musician’s venue for making that personal connection—an emotional connection—with his fans. Through tours and concerts, the rock musician continues a legacy in which millions of people are emotionally invested.
Firstly, because Bruce Springsteen is so well-established, his concert, performance, and appearance revenues actually outweigh revenues of sales from his album releases. This fact makes two things clear: first, the choice between record label distribution and self-distribution is less important, and second, Springsteen can focus on performing instead of writing new material to play to new audiences. Instead, he can perform his classic repertoire of music that multiple generations have loved and enjoyed. For that reason, his record label should actually have very little impact on his musical career going forward, which is a similar case to Radiohead, who decided to self-distribute new material. Clearly, the decision to trust a record label or to self-distribute is up to the individual artist, and his decision will be influenced by a number of factors. For Springsteen, first and foremost, is his age. At 60, a 10-year contract may last him through the remainder of his performing career. Also, for many artists, the decision to self-distribute is a philosophical one: trying to shift away from the label-dominated paradigm that exists in the United States. These intangible issues aside, perhaps the best advice one can give Bruce Springsteen, when faced with these two options, is to reflect on his experiences from the past 35 years, and whether he has had a satisfying experience with Columbia.