In a time-frame where most of what’s left of the music industry has gone digital, there are still many debates about whether recording artists should still sign to a record label or stay independent even into the year 2014. Sure, there are advantages & disadvantages to both decisions & situations but in comes the even harder decision: “How will either decision or situation benefit (or not benefit) the recording artist???” What started out as an interesting topic of discussion on Facebook a few days ago, I decided to write an article on it going into more detail about whether recording artists should sign to a label or stay on the indie route in 2014.
With labels signing less & less artists since 2004, more & more indie recording artists still have the desire (and to an extent, drive) to get that major record deal. From my perspective, signing to a label takes away the pain of licensing & sample clearances as well as providing bigger marketing budgets for projects for the most part. While I’m not too crazy about 360 deals, they can work if the artist that signs to that kind of agreement is profitable as artists have to look at themselves as brands this day in time. 1 of the best advantages I like about signing to a label is the fact that with major record deals come traditional media airplay with next to no work from the artist which in turn gives him/her a bigger name already.
Then there’s other avenues for artists (and labels) that choose not to go the record label route. With digital distribution models such as; aggregators (CD Baby, TuneCore, The Orchard, etc…), blogs (Forbez DVD, RapMonster.com, VannDigital.com, etc…), & social networks (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc…), recording artists get to play the game on the same level as the major labels as they have the chance to take advantage of the same opportunities the majors have been enjoying since the beginning of the music industry. With less money to spend, no inventory to carry, & the simple fact you get to keep ownership of your material & artistic freedom, there has never been a better time for artists to take advantage of digital distribution outlets.
But as we already know, all these good benefits that both avenues offer come with a price & a big price might I add. Signing to record labels can make the artist lazy. They feel that with licensing, big marketing budgets, mainstream media airplay with little to no work on their end, & sample clearances, no work has to be done at all. Even with record labels footing most of the bills, some work is still required from the artist when it comes to press, live performances, etc. I have also noticed that nowadays, major labels make the artist foot the bills for their projects before they do their part financially & this is after the artist is signed. Now even with today’s major label model in effect, the artist still has to pay back every bit of money that was spent on their projects before they can start making money from record sales & that’s if they sell records at all when we keep the current music industry climate in mind plus there’s the age old issue of signing your life away when you sign your name on the dotted line.
Now even with digital distribution options available to everybody nowadays, work still has to be done on the artist’s end. Like being signed to a record label, digital distribution has made the artist lazy. They feel that with less money to spend & less inventory to carry, no work has to be done at all. Some offline work (press, live performances, etc…) still has to be done even with digital distribution avenues available plus the artist still has to work twice as hard as an artist signed to a record label in order to be heard. Adding to the hard work that already has to put in, the artist also has to be in a good place financially to push their projects as they will have to foot every bill with little to no outside help.
The path you choose in today’s music industry is like life itself, there’s a good & bad to everything. While I’m not saying that either decision you make will be the worst decision you ever made in your life, it’s still good to know what you’re getting yourself into before you make your choice/s because everything is not for everybody. In Music Industry 2014, what path will you choose???