PUSH 101: Do you need to be signed to a music label or is being independent best?

Music scouts aren’t around in the way they used to be. It’s not as easy to get signed now, as you can’t just send labels your tracks and hope for the best. Things have gone digital, and often you have to rely on being discovered by the right people. Some artists never want to be signed, while others want it straight away. There’s no right or wrong here, you need to find what works for you. Deal or no deal?

Deal or no deal gold and black writing spinning into frame against a gold and black background

Sometimes when people decide to turn their music into a career they think signing to a label is the only option for them. However, this isn’t the case. There are multiple ways you can grow as an artist. Labels can be really beneficial, but you don’t have to believe that’s the only way your music will grow. It can be done alone, it will just take more time and effort. Some people don’t want to have to take on the logistics themselves and that’s completely fine. If that’s not something you’re interested in, or if you struggle with it, then a label could be for you. It’s just about deciding what suits you best.

Being an independent artist

Deciding to do it alone means you’ll have more creative freedom. No one can tell you how and when to create music because no one else is involved with the process. If you decide to change the genre you favour, you can. Experimenting with what you and your audience love is something you can do with no restrictions. With a label, their opinions come into the mix. You need to agree with them when you’re going to make big changes.

All of your earnings go directly to you. Of course streaming stores etc will take a cut, but once all of this is done, your earnings don’t have to be split further. You can take home everything that’s left. This money can then be used toward promoting yourself. It might be you decide to upgrade with certain tools you’re using. This could help you expand further, because your profits are going back into your music. It might mean you earn more money than you would with a label.

You’ll own your own copyright. No one can claim rights to your music because it will be solely yours. Often when signing to a label, you need to sign some of your rights away. The label will then have control over your music and if you decide to leave them, you might struggle to gain these rights back. They’ll be able to say where and when your music can be used. Despite you having your own opinion, if they want to allow someone to use your tracks, often they can without your knowledge.

Being signed to a music label

Signing with a label means you’ll have access to more resources than you would alone. You can reach out to other people across the music industry and get help with pushing your music further. You’ll likely have connections with other creatives such as; graphic designers, videographers, marketing teams and photo editors. All of these individuals could be useful when you’re designing your campaigns, or preparing to release new music. One creative might know others, and it could snowball from there.

Building a network is something all artists need to do as quickly as possible. You never quite know what doors it will open for you. Meeting just one person could change your future. They might know other people who could help benefit your work. Relationships are important to your growth and the more you make, the more you will be able to succeed. It will be a lonely time of your life if you’re not looking to expand relationships. Being part of a label cuts out the work of finding these contacts. Often, they’ll have other people on their books you can reach out to.

Labels have an upper hand. Often other artists and people within the industry will hear you’re part of a label and treat you with more respect because they still see labels as an important part of the industry. Depending on who you sign with, you’ll be held higher than other artists because you’ve been spotted. They’ve noticed you. It’s no secret labels know what they’re doing, so you’ll often be looked at as though you also know what’s happening in the world of music. It might just make you stand out.

Which should you choose?

This is a decision you’ll need to make based on your own work. If you’re someone who likes having full control and enjoys all elements of being an artist, then you might want to stay solo. It’s not impossible to grow and gain a huge following by yourself. Sometimes, artists grow alone and then get signed once they’ve got big enough. This is because the bigger you get, the more work you’ll have on your hands. It can get a bit too much for some artists, and suddenly they don’t have the time to keep up with everything they have to do.

Often artists will start out on their own and then sign if they need the extra support. It’s not a permanent thing being signed, so if it doesn’t work for you, it’s something you can get out of. However, it’s important to look closely at any contracts first because you might lose rights to your music, or have to work with them for long enough before you can leave. Labels certainly can get you more work. They’ll have connections to bigger venues or recording studios. It takes the pressure off you, so it could be worth it. But, it’s something you have to weigh up for yourself.

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