record label

Record Labels: For and Against [Part 2]

DO need a label

(This is a blog is the second part of a two part post.  You can read the first about why you DON’T need a record label here.)

Here are the reasons why you DO need a record label.

There are three main things record labels provide for artists:

Expertise, access and cash.

 

Expertise

As long as you’re not signing with your friends start up record label in their Mom’s garage (read this post about why you shouldn’t go into business with friends here), you’ll be working with people that have done their job with multiple artists.  The time and experience that these people have invested in their career will benefit your band exponentially.  Knowing and understanding the process of dealing with co-writers, producers, the recording process, how to market your release, and how to set a strong trajectory for your career are just a few of the things an established label can offer.

Access

Because of their position – record labels have relationships with radio, PR, booking agents, artist managers and other artists that you do not.  And with that position comes a level of credibility that a label can call upon to build those relationships on your behalf.  Because all of life is ‘who you know’ aligning yourself with people that have relationships is never a bad idea.

Cash

No, I’m not talking about six-figure signing bonuses.  Those days are long gone.  But if you’ve recorded your own record, paid for merchandise, or funded a tour, you know how expensive all of those things can be.  One of the biggest benefits of a record label is that they have those funds up front.  So instead of having to decide whether you should record a few songs for an EP or print up some new t-shirts for your tour, a label could potentially help you fund both possibilities.

Just like individuals, every band is different.  One size does not fit all, and because of that some artists are more suited to signing with a record label while others are better off staying independent.  Which artist are you?  Let’s figure it out together.  Email me here.

Record Labels: For and Against [Part 1]

DONT Need.jpg

Most artists fall into one of two camps: ‘I would saw off my right arm to sign a record deal!’ or ‘There is no amount of money that could ever get me to sign a record deal.’  This is part one of a two-part blog series that will explore both sides: why you don’t need a record label, and why you do need a record label (click here to read why you do need a label).

Here’s why you don’t need a record label.

Of course, you want to make a living doing music.  That’s the dream right?  But at the core, you love music, you love art, and you long to be able to connect with people through something that close to your heart.  Right?  Yeah, labels don’t care about that.  A label is a business and that is their primary goal – make a living off of your art.  They will not be as concerned about ‘artistic integrity’ as you will be.

Just like any relationship, there is give and take.  There are three main things you give up when you sign on the dotted line with a label:  Freedom, Creativity, and Ownership.

Now, there are many factors that influence to what extent you give up each of those elements: the size of the label, your clout as an artist, the kind of deal you’ve agreed upon, etc.  But those are things you have to be willing to surrender to sign with a label.

Here are some examples of what it may look like to give up…

…Freedom

Your label may want you to release a specific song as a single that you didn’t write because it’s the most marketable.  They may want you to go on tour with an artist that you don’t like.  They will want to speak into the kinds of endorsement and sponsorship opportunities you have as an artist, because it effects their vision for your career.

…Creativity

We’ve all seen the movies: struggling singer-songwriter signs a deal, gets turned into a pop music puppet by the big bad record label.  It’s really not that extreme, but most labels are about science not art.  ‘This worked for that artist, it will work for this artist.’

…Ownership

Labels make money by owning something you’ve created.  Typically that is your masters (the final recorded piece of music that you wrote).  When you give up ownership, you now have to ask permission to record, perform, and release the songs that you put your heart and soul in.  It also means, that there is a chance, if you walk away from your deal or get dropped, you’ll never be able to record or release those songs again – bye-bye greatest hits, live record or acoustic EP.

And perhaps the most obvious reason you don't need a record label is that it's 2014.  There are more opportunities, markets and ways for an artist to make a decent living than ever before.  Between being able to record a decent album on your laptop and the internet giving you access to fans that you would have never known existed, with a little business sense to drive you forward there are infinite ways to pursue a career in this industry.

Now, as someone who has and does work for a record label, they are not all bad.  And there are certainly benefits to signing with a label that outweigh doing this completely on your own.  We’ll explore that in post two, coming next week.

What do you think?  Time to pursue this completely on your own?  Let’s talk.  Email me here.