Signing onto a Record Label or Staying Independent: a Dilemma for the Ages.
There’s no denying that the music industry has had an upheaval during the internet age. It seems that the traditional choice between two paths to take in your music career is no longer so simple.
Artists used to have two options: signing with a mega label and losing creative control and the rights to their music, or trying to make it on their own and facing a constant struggle trying to be seen and heard.
This has been turned on its head since the music biz went digital. Artists can now grow by themselves using social media and digital streaming platforms. But while it is now easier to get discovered by new fans, there are still difficulties that can arise from trying to make it completely by yourself.
Pros and Cons of Signing a Record Deal:
As with anything in life, if you want something done exactly as you envisioned it, you can only rely on yourself. Allowing the influence of other people on your music (which is guaranteed to happen if you sign a deal), there will always be a few niggling things that you’re not 100% happy with.
Essentially, by signing with a record label, it is inevitable that you will lose at least some creative control. You will also sign away the rights to your music and other aspects of your personal ‘brand’ for at least a certain period of time.
On the other hand, the benefits of signing a music deal can be far from insignificant. You might be struggling financially and could really do with a large sum of money upfront. Joining forces with a record label can provide this, and it will allow you to fully focus on creating to the best of your ability without worrying about how you’re going to pay next month’s rent.
You also get a whole team of people who have experience and contacts within the industry working for you. Success can seem a lot more achievable when you have several people working towards it instead of just one.
Do I Have to Choose Between One or the Other?
The choice between both options can seem like a catch-22. You want to stay independent so that you can have more freedom to be creative, yet the security and lightened workload that a record label will bring will also give you more freedom to be creative.
Thankfully, it is increasingly possible to choose a hybrid between the two. According to industry experts, record labels are well aware of the fact that artists are now in a much better position to promote themselves due to the wonders of the internet. The record label market is now a lot more competitive. As a result, in order to make sure that artists keep signing with them, they’re making their terms and conditions a lot more agreeable.
So what is the best way of capitalising on this competitive market? We recommend taking your time do your research. If approached by a label, you should spend time asking their other artists about their experiences with them. You can also find out what competing labels offer and use this as a point of negotiation.
Another way of getting the best of both worlds is by remaining independent, but hiring the help of others. Freelance work has been on the rise for a while now, and there are lots of music industry experts who would be happy to take some of your work off your hands.
At the same time, there are lots of new ways of diversifying your income. If you want to make it without a label, you’ll need to be business savvy. Some great ways for artists to make some money on the side include taking on brand deals, or providing extra paid digital content for their fans, such as live streams.
Our Final Thoughts
Different career paths are suited to different people. Choosing whether you sign a record deal is a personal choice, and should be made keeping your unique skillset in mind.
Most importantly, you should do your research about the different options that are available to you, and compare different labels before making the final decision. You should also make sure that you take advantage of new industry innovations such as social media trends and freelance support.