You are in a good place. You are doing what you love and makin’ a few bucks on the side. You get to write your own music, perform it the way you want to perform it, choose when you play and who plays on the band. So, why would you want to give up all that independence as an indie artist to sign a record deal? I mean, they are going to steal your money and rob you blind and then tie up all your music so you can’t use it, right?
Besides, who needs those attitudes… I mean we have all heard about those attitudes of the big wigs at the top who think we are just a commodity that will help them buy their next Mercedes Benz, right?
Wait, don’t write it off, just yet. Ok, go grab your favorite drink, or your ax, and let’s have a chat for awhile, just a friendly conversation about record labels and some possible benefits of signing with one. You ready?
What Does the Label Have To Offer Me?
The label is likely to have deeper pockets (finances) and a team of (hopefully) professionals.
• Deeper Pockets
Unless you are making oodles of money in music, or even with a “day job.” you may find that a record company may have deeper pockets than what you have. And, if you are doing really well with your day job, and making that 6 figure income, are you finding the time that you need to gig and write the next big hit, or are you spending all your time and energy on that job? If you are making the six figures with your music, well, eh, maybe you should be starting the next record label, eh?
Now, I’m not claiming that money is everything, but expenses add up and they are not paid by the leaves falling from the trees. Hey, even the cost of gas going to that gig isn’t free, is it? So, even when we say we play the music because we love it and we play it for fans whom we love, well, we still need that money….
• The Team
As a part of the resources category and an extension of the “deeper pockets,” the label is likely to have a team of people working together. It may not be a huge team (depending on the label), but it will be more than just one person doing multiple tasks, and this is beneficial, especially when that team is comprised of people who are specialized in one area or another.
Have we said that already? Well it can’t be stressed enough. One person’s experience can benefit more than just one person and can be taught and learned and passed on and on… You are experienced doing what you do, right? That may be writing music, performing music, entertaining an audience. Well, the label is likely to have people who not only work well in their specialty, but have the experience doing it! So, let’s capitalize on that experience, shall we?
The record label is likely to have access to people to whom you would not have access on your own. You know, the “Rolodex,” as we used to call it before the digital age. There are people who cross paths and network and develop friendships and work on projects together, and they may just congregate at the label and opportunities available to you because you are a part of that label. You, as only one person, can only meet so many people on your own, with your own connections, but the record label has access to and for connections that may (should!) help you out in your career.
How Does That Benefit Me?
With more resources, the record label is better positioned to get you those promotions that you are looking for and desire. They will be able to target that promotion and launch it for you. That doesn’t mean that all of your hard work, as an indie artist (i.e. social media skills), goes to waste. Rather, any efforts that you and your band already perform, will augment the efforts of the label: Win-Win.
Just like we talked about, above, hooking up with the record label gives you exposure to people that you may not have met otherwise. This also gives you exposure to more audiences, more musicians, people to network with and people to collaborate with, on projects. This exposure helps you more than record sales, as it is what makes up the seeds for future success in your music career.
The label also has the experience to know which promotions have performed well in the past and which haven’t and should have the experience to pick the best fit for you. Think of it this way… They have done a lot of the “trial and error” for you already. This will result in a more efficient approach to your promotions and the management of your projects.
With efficiency comes better timing. And, the timing is so important, and so difficult, sometimes, for indie artists to do on their own. I mean, what good is your Holiday CD when it comes out in February (unless you are gearing up for the next Holiday season…
Networking and Collaboration
Exposure grants you this networking and collaboration piece, but we need to emphasize it again. You never know when you meet that “right person” and it clicks and not only does your career catapult into success, but you are on the map, as far as music history. Even if we bring our goals in a bit, there are opportunities for some great alliances through the networking and collaboration opportunities that a record label may provide.
And, the opportunities for musicians on your next album project or gig? Access, my darlings, access and collaboration..
⇨> More money, more success, at least some fan love! <==
Ok, you may be saying, “So you convinced me that signing with a record label may be a workable thing for me. Which type of label do I want?”
For a great in-depth discussion of the differences between the labels, check out Wikipedia’s article, “Major vs. Independent Record Labels.”
There are a couple things that you need to consider when choosing a label type (Independent versus Major).
First, is opportunity. Remember the saying about the bird in the hand and two in the bushes? Well, you don’t want to say “No” to ten independent record labels while waiting for that one major record label, or your ship may sail and never come back. But, at the same time, if that major record label is your goal and it simply hasn’t pulled into port yet, you may want to hold off on the independent label offer.
But, opportunity is one thing and, more importantly would be the evaluations of your own objectives and goals for your career. Which type of label truly fits with your goals? With the larger, major label, there may be more restrictions on your own creative flow, depending on the people. But, with the independent label, there may be less access to the opportunities and connections and exposure you desire than the major label.
Let’s think of it this way.. Think “Corporate” versus “Small Business.” There are advantages to both. Corporate may have better access, but Small Business may have more flexibility. Which is best for you?
Will you give up a couple freedoms if you sign with a record label? Oh, yeah, probably, but, you do when you take a job, too, giving up a bit of freedom with your schedule. It comes down to a decision that is yours, but let’s put it in perspective. Let’s realize that many things in life, dare I say most things, are a transaction. So, with that in mind, read over the list, above, and you tell me… Is that a transaction that helps you reach your musical goals, and your musical dreams? You ready to take that jump and leap if it comes your way?
Before I go, let me leave you with some encouragement to try, try, and try again. This is one of my favorite songs by my friend, Alan O’Day, called, “Your Song Sucks” (from I HEAR VOICES by Alan O’Day).