Most unsigned musicians will go to great lengths to attract the attention of any A&R scout, often not really knowing what to expect if they were to be accepted and offered an independent record deal.
As you can probably imagine this is a very grey area in the music industry as independent record labels range from ‘one man band’ local operations to multi million pound empires such as Cash Money and Island Records. Some independent record labels are fantastic at what they do, but unfortunately the majority of them do not actually offer what you might expect. As a former independent record label manager and signed musician I can back this one up with my own experience of independent record labels.
- It is generally perceived that signing a record deal is the first step towards ‘making it’ in the music industry, this can be true in some cases but it is certainly a misconception. This is like saying that every business that an investor invest in will succeed, when clearly they don’t. Record labels are the investors in *talented* music artists.
- Most artists also believe that when a record label offers you a record deal that’s when the money begins to roll in, again this is rarely the case.
I guess what I am trying to get at is that many of the things we associate with major record labels are actually filtered into our perception of independent record labels, simply because they share the same glamorous terms like ‘record deal’ and ‘record contract’ which trigger our senses and make us feel like we’re relating with the chart artists. Also most of the independent record labels we hear about (such as Cash Money, Roadrunner, Island etc.) are actually sub labels of the major labels, so they are not reflective of the common kind of independent record deal which I am talking about.
Now i’m going to contradict myself.
I actually think that almost all musicians should sign to an independent record label or have a shot at being an ‘independent’ unsigned musician if offered the chance with a GOOD independent label. Why?
In The Musician’s Guide to World Domination I refer to indie record labels as being similar to a high school college, and artists being the student, here is a quote from the guide:
Music artists are a lot like high school students – the thought of going to college to receive more deadlines, more work and being controlled by someone else can be unappealing to a college student in the short run, but in the long run the student will gain education, friends, and raise the chances of getting into university and landing the job of their dreams. By signing to a record label you will inevitably meet new contacts in the music industry, you will be constantly motivated and worked hard, you will also learn a lot about the music industry, and just like universities, the major record labels often only consider the most experienced candidates in their field and you can bet your bottom dollar that having been signed to an independent label is certainly a criterion on any major record label A&R (artist and repertoire) scout’s checklist.
To summarise this rather confusing multi angled post, I would say that musicians should sign to an independent record labels as a method of gaining knowledge, contacts, professional quality recordings and experience, providing the indie label has a good track record with other artists and can prove in one way or another that they can help you to meet your aims. However, I think musicians should realise the true capability of the particular independent record label to prevent any dissapointment in the long run.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Please leave your comments below on your thoughts on independent record labels