Record labels. Do you need one? Do you need to be sign to one? And what will a record label do and not do for you? If you read any biography of any big artist, you’ll see a clear pattern that almost everyone have been screwed by their record label one way or the other.. Why? Well, one big mistake when entering the music industry is NOT treating it for what it is, an industry! So put on your suit and buckle up, here we go ;)…
What is a record label?
A record label is a company that will provide the artist with the song that he/she or the band needs. It also includes the facilities, equipment, and everything needed to create music. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, creating music was expensive because you needed to have access to these great studios and you couldn’t do what you can do today with just a laptop. This made the record labels very powerful because they were the only ones with money and resources to release albums/singles. A 90-10 revenue split (90% for the record label and 10% for the artist) was a fair deal because the record label took all production and distribution expenses, which was a lot!
Nowadays, you can do all of these steps way cheaper. For instance, when you make a song, you don’t need to hire musicians depending on the genre. When it comes to studios, no need to rent these expensive studios and sit down with a million dollar SSL desk for your EDM track… You can definitely do all of that with your computer. Things have changed but the system and most of all the MINDSET still hasn’t caught up with the changes in the music industry. I still see people who do all the steps themselves. Writing, recording, producing, mixing and mastering and when the song is ready for release; they still turn to a label. Of course, nothing is wrong with that but when it comes to the split; it is still 90% for the record label and 10% for the artist which is unfair specially if the record label haven’t done anything more than just taking your song, put their name on it, and distributed it.
So, do you need a record label?
YES and NO. YES – because in order for your music to generate income it needs to sell. It needs to be on the bigger playlists on Spotify and other music websites or in front of many people. Being on a record label means they will put you on their own playlists which most of the time have a big amount of listeners. NO – because you can make this happen yourself with a good marketing strategy and strong following on the different social media platforms. So when you have done your own song, either you will go your own way or go to a record label. A reminder though, there is a huge difference in owning 100% of the Masterfile compared to just owning 10%. I have seen the contracts and in my opinion artists are just too quick to sign.. In many cases they don’t even need the deal because the conditions are so bad. Tell me, If you’ve done all of the work yourself why would you give away a big share of the income for no reason?
Think of who you are, what kind of promotion you can do yourself versus what kind of promotion you need help with. Sometimes, it’s good to use your songs to promote what you’re doing, instead of focus only on the sales/income. In this case signing with a label can be a great solution. “Sacrifice” some songs and consider them pure “promotion” and let the label get a bigger share of the income BUT in return make them work hard with marketing and building up your fan base. By having a bigger fan base in the future, you can release your songs on your own without the record labels help with promoting it. So how do you build a big following? A good you start is by having email lists, social media interactions and valuable content out here!
Another option is signing a license deal. This is when a record label approaches you and want to push a song you have already released yourself . You then “lend” them the rights to promote/sell that song to other places/markets for a specific period of time. Getting a lawyer is always advised in these situations to help you read though the terms and conditions.
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Best / Dejo
CEO, Eleven B Studios