Major or indie? Should you sign an album label deal with a major record company?

Every day, there seems to be a new platform for music fans to enjoy. You want your music to be heard by as many people as possible. Thanks to the hard work of many, major record companies are no longer the gatekeepers that they used to be. It’s not necessary to be signed to a major label to reach the masses.

Record labels are still powerful, even though anyone can now use a distributor to distribute their music through streaming services and digital music stores. The major labels are able to exert influence in the music industry because they have many major stars and the money to invest to create new stars.

It can be difficult for an independent musician to decide what the best path is to long-term growth and success. There are three options when it comes to distribution: major labels (Universal Sony Warner), independent labels, or DIY.

It’s perfectly fine to try and find an audience for your music, as well as monetize it independently, without the help of a large or small record label. The more you succeed, no matter how you do it, the more record labels will reach out to you.

You might be contacted if your number increases after you appear on influential playlists. You can expect to be contacted if you go viral on TikTok. You can expect a call from a big label if you go viral on TikTok. They will invest in your future and take your TikTok success to broader arenas.

When you receive your first record contract, you may have a lot of questions. You can either seek out advice from me or another talented music lawyer in your country, or you can choose not to. This lawyer recommends that you do your homework before hiring a lawyer. Talk to industry professionals who can provide valuable insight and research labels and label agreements. Also, learn as much as you can about the particular label.

What kind of artist do you consider yourself to be, and how would you describe your style in terms of Major, Indie, or DIY? One factor to take into consideration is where artists similar to you are succeeding. If you are a young artist, you will have less options. However, you can choose the style that best suits you.

Consider these questions when you are considering signing a recording contract:

The team

Major labels employ many more employees than independent labels. You are less likely to have the same person as your manager throughout your tenure at a major label. Major labels employ many specialists in various areas (marketing and promotions, playlisting, tracking radio, distribution, etc.). Indies have fewer staff members who take on a variety of roles. The one isn’t always better than the other. Understanding what is offered is important. You should know the family that you are about to marry, no matter how big or small it is.

1. Who are these people, and what do they look like?

Who is the other party in any deal (musical or not) is the most important thing. Do your due diligence. You’re at greater risk if you are the only artist signed to a label or if the label is managed by someone who has no music experience. Talk to other artists on the roster to learn about their experiences. Find out if anyone else has left the label.

2. Who will I be working with in reality?

It is time to ask, “Who is behind the curtain?” and “with whom will I be working?” You may gain confidence or lose it based on the answer. You want to be able to work with people who understand your music and are eager to help you take it to the next step.

3. Is it OK if a certain person leaves the label?

Are you OK with it if you sign only because the label has a certain person who is “your champion” – perhaps someone in A&R? Is there a way to leave the label early in case that person leaves?

Record Labels:

In general, major labels have more financial resources for marketing and recording compared to independent labels. Just because a major record label has more resources doesn’t mean you will benefit from them. You could even lose out if the major label decides to invest its funds in other areas. The fact that a major label may have a wider range of artists to work with does not mean they will want to or can.

4. What will they do for me in regards to… recording costs

You should know how much the music that you intend to release and record with the label will cost. You want to ensure that your contract includes a commitment from the label to cover all or part of the costs. The label may agree to pay up to $10,000 for recording a project. This is not an agreement of $10,000 but rather a commitment between $0 to $10,000. Ask: What is the minimum amount of money required to record a project?

5. What will they do for me in terms of… marketing costs

Signing with a record label could be one of the best reasons to do so. The label will┬ápromote your music. What is the label’s commitment to you – in terms of both their internal resources as well as third-party marketing expenditures such as digital ads, publicists, and radio trackers? What is their marketing commitment?

6. What will they do to promote my music?

The promise that labels make to put your music on playlists is another reason to choose a label over DIY. What is their pitch for how they can put you on these playlists? Do you really believe it? What has this artist done specifically for other musicians in your musical genre?

7. Will they connect me with other musicians for collaborations?

Another great reason to join a label is to be able to collaborate with other artists. Do not assume that you’ll have access to other artists. Ask in advance.

8. Will they send me to a writing camp?

Some labels offer money to send you to cities where relevant people are located to collaborate with them or to camps for writing new music.

Answers to these questions depend on the type of offer. Major labels are more likely to invest in this kind of investment, but indies may think it’s reasonable to offer a similar deal to a major. It depends on the circumstances whether this is reasonable.

You can control the direction of your music if you choose not to sign with a record label. You have full control over marketing and can say “yes” or “no” at any time. Your resources and access to other connections could be limited.

Next, in our series, we will discuss how artists receive money and royalties when they sign deals with major or independent record labels.

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