So you're in search of a record deal, but what type of label would work best for you? When it comes to getting a record deal, finding the right fit and structure is key to your success! So which is it..? An independent record label or a major label? In this article we will take a detailed look into the advantages and disadvantages of both types of recording labels.
Firstly, it is good to know the difference between a major and an independent record label.
Major record labels, such as Sony, Warner, EMI, Universal and many others are perfect examples of massive music corporations with millions of capital in the bank! With powerful distribution, advertising and media connections they have extreme leverage within the music industry which in turn enables them to successfully support major projects for the artists they choose to sign.
In the eyes of most emerging artists, a record deal with a major label has always been considered the big prize, However with the introduction of various online social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram along with the digital retail stores such as iTunes & Amazon. There is now a shade being cast over the once so mighty majors. Independent labels or should I say “Indie” Labels as they are commonly referred to are now becoming a very likely pick for musicians.
What Makes a Record Label ‘Indie’?
Any recording label that operates without the funding of the major music labels is considered an independent record label. This means that they are independently funded and are not connected to one of the big three major labels Universal, Sony or Warner.
Unfortunately Indie labels can not offer the same kind of funding for artists that the majors can. Due to their various advantages indie labels are quickly becoming the new avenue for many artists as they offer many benefits that the Big labels can’t.
Indie labels generally allow you the freedom to work with whomever you desire. This allows the artist to explore their sound and creativity without the pressures of potentially sacrificing their style in favour of seeking chart success through the majors. When you are signed to an Independent label, in almost every instance it is because the label is genuinely interested in your music. Because indie labels have smaller staffs and tighter rosters, musicians are more likely to develop close relationships with the people working on their projects.
Although larger indie labels have relatively complex contracts, they will not demand any control over the artist's creative license, most indies do not try to lock their artists into long-term, multi-album contracts but prefer to make an upfront agreement in relation to the distribution and percentage shares of gained revenue.
Indie labels are not without their drawbacks however, consider the following before you decide an independent label is the right avenue for you.
While funding is usually a main benefit to signing with a major label, it definitely tops the list of negatives for the indies. Although some independent labels are financially successful, most smaller operations are just trying to stay afloat. This means that they usually don’t have the available finances to fund an all-out media blitz like the major labels do. They often have to find creative new ways to promote and further your music and career. They would also struggle to provide big advances, large recording budgets, tour support, and many of the other perks that a major label would otherwise offer you. It is important to understand that with indie labels, you’ll usually still have to remain financially invested in your own music career.
So what about the Majors?
Major record labels are global enterprises that own their own publishing and distribution companies.
The biggest advantage of signing with a major label is the support you can expect from their big budgets. From elaborate music videos to lavish tours, extravagant merchandise to massive distribution, major labels have the means to cover the entirety of your music journey. It is good to remember that with a big company also comes a big name and reputation. Major labels have been established for years and have a great deal of experience. You will have access to a greater network of industry connections and press contacts which will help further your music career much more easily. A major record label could also be a quicker way to success, as mentioned above, major labels have greater access to resources, both financial and industrial. Their scale of operations generally means that a lot of their contracted artists experience a speedier rise to success.
Major labels have huge rosters of artists and they are not afraid to overlook or even drop any artist they feel are underperforming.
This could have you competing for a prime spot against other artists on the label, which in turn may leave you less time to focus on the quality of your music. The majors also offer less control within their contracts, they tend to offer artists less royalties, rights and even creative control. Artists signing to major labels quickly realise that not everyone in the music industry is there for the love of music. You’ll generally find a higher percentage of people who are in the music business strictly for the money when it comes to the major labels compared to those at indie labels, this can sometimes end up rubbing artists the wrong way.