Information to Keep in Mind When Signing to a Record Label
A goal for a lot of musicians is to get signed to a record label–big or small. It can be a great achievement because finally someone has recognized your music and you can now take your music to the next level. Well, sometimes it’s not all puppies and rainbows. It can be grueling, and a lot of artists are forming their own labels or just going independent. All three of the former are viable options; however, there are benefits and downsides to each. We’re going to provide you with some information to keep in mind if you do decide to sign with a record label.
Independent means no boss to shoot orders
You might have somebody to tell you what to do, but maybe not. When you’re an independent artist, then you have 100% freedom over what you do with your music. If your music is signed to a label, they’ll often own what’s called the master. The master is the rendered version (MP3, WAV, etc) of your track. Depending on your contract, you may or may not be able to create derivatives of the track (a remix, for example). Any money that you make on album or merchandise sales or sync licensing goes directly into your bank.
Being independent does, however, have limitations. One of the biggest being that you may not have the resources readily available, including distribution, recording, marketing, etc. The expenses that come along with those things also come out of your pocket. So the money that you earn can just as quickly disappear when you start recording in a professional studio and contracting out your marketing work. You may be limited on connections as well. Bigger labels have an impressive network of industry professionals. This is definitely a perk when signed to a major label. Get in, network with as many people as possible, and leverage those connections throughout the entirety of your career.
Independent label = small team, but contracts that favor the artist
Generally, independent labels have a reputation of being more lenient on the money they rake in from one of your releases. Furthermore, they work with non-exclusive contracts, which means that you can write one song for them, release it through them, and then release your next track through a different label. In a sense, they operate like a hair salon. If you like the job that they do, you can keep going back, and they hope that you do. However, if you don’t like the way they work or the job they did, then you’ll have the option to go elsewhere next time around.
Depending on how long they’ve been operating, they’ll probably have a great amount of connections. Many independent label owners bring industry experience to the table. They see an empty hole or a void in the industry so they kick things off for themselves. Not all independent labels have connections, but a good handful of them will.
Another perk of an independent label is the team being smaller. A smaller team means more tight knit connections. This is your chance to build a relationship with that team and turn them into your dream team! Plus, it can be a lot more fun than working with a board of directors at a major record label.
A major label deal isn’t your golden ticket…
Unlike Jamvana, major labels are volume companies. If it sounds good and fits the current trends of the industry, then they’ll sign it. However, it can get dropped just as fast as it got signed, and it’s what happens a lot of the time. If your music doesn’t churn out high numbers, then they will drop you.
Major labels don’t generate artist-friendly contracts. When you ink your name with one of the majors, you may be signing your entire career away. Sometimes they’ll sneak in clauses that entitle them to have five or more 14-track albums before your contract is up and you can go to another label. Fourteen multiplied by five is 70. That’s a lot of music being funneled through one label. Before you ink a deal with a major label, please seek help from a lawyer to read the contract in its entirety. They will be able to break it down and help you decide if the deal will be beneficial for your career or not.
There are a handful of reasons why or why not you’d want to be signed to a major record label. Some artists fare better independent; some with an independent label; and some with a major label. It depends entirely on you and what your goals are as a musician. If you want complete control over your music, then you’re better off going independent. If you enjoy working with your dream team, you might be better off going independent or working with an independent label. Lastly, if you think you have what it takes to become the next Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga, then by all means get that major record deal. Just be sure that you do ample amount of research before deciding, as you want a deal that’s going to benefit your career!
If you have any questions about being independent, independent labels, or major record labels, then please feel free to reach out to us at Jamvana. We’d be more than happy to give you some pointers.