There seems to be a lot of pressure on independent artists to get themselves signed by a label. While this could do your career wonders, this isn’t always the case. You need to decide for yourself whether it’s worth signing with a label or whether you should carry on solo. Don’t let scaremongers in the industry force you either way.
Being an independent artist
This comes with a lot of challenges, however can be one of the most rewarding things ever. You have full control over what happens with your music. There’s no one getting involved with when to post and where. It’s completely your choice. If you want to release your music you can, likewise if you want your music to be pulled down from stores, this is your choice as well. You get to decide the stores your music ends up on, and no one else has a say over this.
Full creative control belongs to you as the artist. The marketing, artwork, deadlines and distribution are completely your choice. You aren’t backed into a corner by having to follow certain guidelines and rules set by a label. If you want to work with other artists on your work, you can do this without having to run is past anyone. It gives you complete freedom over the finished product.
The money is completely yours too. Well, the profits are. Once you have paid off anyone who has helped you create your tracks, you get to pocket the rest. There are no cuts going to a label, and you don’t have to pay anyone to handle your tracks. You hold onto the master rights and don’t have to worry about contracts or signing their music rights over to anyone. There is no question about who owns what. Your music is exactly that, yours.
As an independent artist you won’t have as many contacts as you might with a label. Meaning you have to find your own creatives to help with marketing, merchandise, distribution and even tours. Anything extra you want to do apart from write and record your music, you might need some further support with. This is certainly achievable, but you will need to find the contacts yourself. With a label, you’ll have the backing of money and experience, so they can help find everything you need.
Independent artists have limited experience within the music industry. They don’t have the years of experience of a label, so they might not know where to begin. Labels will know the hidden music industry secrets. They’ll be clued-up on legal aspects of the business. It’s their job to keep on top of the latest trends, music laws and ever-changing areas of the industry. Time is also an issue. Juggling the many roles that come with releasing your own music is tough and having no one on hand to help can make things even more difficult.
Using a record label
This option gives you less control over your music and that’s a fact, however, this does not mean it isn’t the better option for many artists. The choice is completely yours based upon your needs and desires. They can help you grow at a much quicker rate than you would going solo. You’ll have access to dos and don’ts that you wouldn’t being an independent artist. It’s great to be able to learn from people who have been there several times before.
The budget is a lot higher. They will have funding and various resources backing them which means they can find you the best tools for you and your music. Labels can provide you with mastering, distribution, marketing, touring, photography and videography support. As they have been in the industry for years, they will have many contacts that they can reach out to on your behalf. They’ll have experience in every genre which will put you at ease knowing they understand what they’re talking about.
Depending on how long the label has been around for, they’ll have a name within the industry. This helps because reputation is everything. If you want to partner with a company or service, you’ll need a good reputation. They may have never heard of you, especially if you’re new, but if they know your label well then there will be the level of trust straight away. Everything will have been tried and tested, meaning you can be certain the marketing strategies they give you are going to work. You’ll likely stand a better chance of securing gigs, radio coverage and music deals.
The control isn’t fully yours. They might be your songs, but the label has a say over everything you do. When you sign with them, you are giving them the control over your sound. They can make the decisions over where your tracks are played, who you distribute with, and how your artwork looks. It’s likely you will have your own input, but ultimately the label gets the final say. So, if you’re unhappy with something, it’s tough because you have agreed to give them control.
The money isn’t just yours. Labels will take a cut of your profits, including; streams, physical sales, merchandise sales etc. Everything you make will have to also go through them. You might even have to sacrifice your royalties generated to pay for promotional material. With the label owning your master rights, they have the freedom to do whatever they want with your sounds. They can create agreements without you agreeing to it. Essentially you’re signing your hard work over to them. Remember, they’ve been in the industry for a long time and can spot a newbie. So, they might not always give you a fair cut.
So, which is best?
The decision here is yours. Both options offer pros and cons. It ultimately comes down to the level of support you require as a new artist. If you think you can fly solo, then do that, and you’ll get full control over your music and the rights to your music. However, some artists do need the extra help and communication that comes from a record label. Don’t forget, a record label may take a bigger cut, but you’re also more likely to find more work and opportunities through them. It may balance out.
If you’re considering being signed by a label, really think through what type of contract you want. Is it something short term to see how you get on? That seems the sensible option in case you realise it isn’t for you. Contracts aren’t something you can back out of, so it is important to be sure. Consider what they’ll bring to the table for you. After all, you know what you’re providing them with, your music and talent. It’s important it doesn’t end up being a one-sided deal. They will however take a lot of pressure off you as an artist because you won’t have to focus on marketing and selling your music. Instead, you can spend more time on perfecting the sound itself.
Being an independent artist can be challenging, there’s no denying it. However, it can still bring incredible opportunities and has a sense of achievement that can’t be matched. If you stick it out, you’ll see the benefits and why it’s so rewarding. This option isn’t for everyone and nor is the choice of a record label. They both have many pros and also cons to match this. Perhaps give one a go and if it’s not for you then you’ll know the other is. Which ever option you choose, there will always be resources and help available. So, don’t think you need to be with a label to have any form of support.