As an independent artist there is always a voice saying “gotta get signed, gotta get signed!” I know I’ve been there. But do you need a record label in 2019?
I’m in the process of releasing a couple of acts on producer agreements and I still have that gnawing at the back of my consciousness.
You don’t need to get signed to successfully launch your own music. With access to Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud etc. it couldn’t be easier to release your music. Getting people to listen is the tricky part.
I am the first person to advocate the DIY option.
You are your biggest fan and the driving force behind your music career. (See my article on “Find the 1 person who will launch your music career”)
In order to be a successful artist you need to love what you do and work hard at it. A record label doesn’t influence that. But they are attracted to it and will exploit it.
In a world of independent artists I think people are very quick to dismiss the power of a good record label. (Note the use of the word “good”)
What does a Record Label do?
Record labels generally coordinate the production, distribution, marketing, promotion, and enforcement of copyright for sound recordings and music videos.
They have marketing teams with years of experience of promoting bands and artists.
They have radio pluggers and press teams that have a huge network of contacts around the world.
They have contacts in publishing and synch to further exploit your music across all media.
They have networks of great music producers and mix engineers
Record labels provide a professional and experienced support team with a vast network of industry contacts.
Now you can do all of the above on your own. If you are starting out you will probably have to. But ultimately, as a creative, you want to invest your time and energy in your craft… which is making music.
I could potentially fit a new kitchen. But I’d rather bring in an experienced team of professionals who will do a better job more quickly.
A good record label should be able to accelerate your exposure and growth and give you access to people and opportunities which might otherwise be out of reach.
The Cost of Signing with a Record Label
Signing with a record label comes at a cost.
When you sign to a label you also surrender the master rights to the recordings and may not have full creative control of your music. The record label is paying and will therefore have a say in how it sounds.
And whilst they are funding the recording of your music, filming of videos, marketing etc. they will recoup those costs (and any others) from the money your music earns.
So when Justin Bieber gets flown around in a private jet… he’s paying for it. Not directly, but the label deducts that cost from any money he is due.
With the prevalence of 360 deals Record Labels also take a cut of publishing, merchandise, live performance etc.
Being an Independent Artist
So no, you do not need a record label.
You should take responsibility for doing it yourself. It may take several years to hone your craft and find your sound but if you enjoy the journey then it will be worth every second.
If you make great music and the word spreads, record labels may come to you. And the more hardwork you’ve done, the more bargaining power you’ll have.
My approach with my acts is to spend the next couple of years honing our sound and live performance. releasing music regularly, building a small but highly engaged fan base (quality rather than quantity) and building as much buzz as possible.
I will put the music in front of labels, publishers etc. wherever possible to put it on their radar and get feedback. That said I believe in what we are doing and do not require validation. I intend to “break” the acts myself and if a record label comes calling, assess whether or not they might be a good fit to help take the music beyond what we can achieve on our own.
Let them come to you…