Label or Independent: Which One is the Best Route For Emerging Artists in 2018?
We’re officially living in the world of the internet, social media and self promotion. This has created an environment where a lot of artists, both mainstream and underground, have built a good career for themselves by going independent. However, getting a record deal or publishing deal is still the main end goal for many artists and producers. Choosing the correct path for yourself can be critical to having success in the music game; so which option is the best for artists and producers trying to go to the next level?
For starters, let’s look at the pros of going independent. First and foremost, is having full control of your music! There’s a reason why being your own boss is often touted as the ultimate goal. Not only creative control, but being able to control when and how it is distributed. Plus, if you’re doing shows and selling merchandise on top of selling/streaming your music, isn’t it nice to not have to give a piece of that pie to a label?
Also, distribution is something that is now available and reasonably affordable online, thanks to the abundance of streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Pandora and Tidal.
While everything may sound pretty sweet, there are also a few drawbacks to being independent. First there’s being able to financially support your endeavor. Going through “the struggle” until your music starts bringing in money so you can reap the rewards yourself sounds like a great game plan until you realize that things like marketing, studio time, equipment, and even placements, do cost money. So unless you already have a main gig that’s makes enough to handle life necessities while being able to afford everything (or you’re just a rich man among us peasants), then having a label foot the bill on a lot of these expenses can be very beneficial to your career.
Another con of the indie life is maneuvering through this industry without representation. While it’s more than doable to build a buzz on your own, there’s no doubting the effectiveness of having a label or other representation backing you to get your foot in the door for more opportunities.
Now that we’ve considered a few pros and cons of going independent, let's look at some of the pros of signing with a decent label. The main pros that come with signing with a label have all to do with having a team behind you. Knowing that your marketing, distribution, and promotion will be handled by the label is ideal for many artists.
There’s also having the exposure that comes with being represented by a label, especially if those representing you can get you multiple opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get your hands on by yourself.
As far as cons go, it’s easy to think of a few in regards to signing with a label. Not having full creative control over your music can potentially hurt your style in the long run. If a label owns your masters, then they own you in a sense, or at least until you pay back that hefty advance.
Also, if you signed a 360 deal, get ready for the sweet sweet joy of having to break off a piece of the pie that comes from merchandising and doing shows to your label. It’s these things that make it imperative to not only know the business, but the law and how to balance your own money in order to make sure that the label isn’t getting rich while you’re just getting by.
So in short, choosing whether to go independent or seek out a label isn’t a black and white choice, but rather a tough and important decision that has to be made during the beginning stages of your career. Should you go with the label and have a team behind you, or go indie and be able to build your brand from the ground up?
Taking time how to evaluate your personal goals and situation to make sure that you’re making the right choice by weighing out the good and bad of both options is something that is certainly critical to your career.
So remember to keep grinding, and consider all sides of things to make sure that you’re aiming for what is truly best for your career goals.