Anybody looking to get into music and pursue it as a full time career will have to make a lot of decisions.
Most career paths greatly differ from a music career which means you can’t rely on observations from other careers and directly apply them to music.
The fact is that, where art is concerned, there have to be certain things to take into account before you can stake your entire future on a career like music.
With that said, most artists usually come up to me to ask this question:
“Is it better to be an independent artist?”
Being an independent artist is better when you have a fan-base, have the ability to market your music, promote it and sell it with minor difficulty. On the other hand, if you have financial constraints and don’t have a good handle on managing your music, marketing or selling it…signing to a label is your best course of action.
Pros of being an Independent Artist
Let’s dive into some advantages of being independent as an artist
One advantage of being an independent artist is that you’ll have full control over your time.
You can make music at your own pace without being pressured into making it.
Working at your own pace will help you take your time with your art and produce top tier content that can win you some new fans and rake in good money aswell.
Having full control of your time as an artist is highly beneficial because they’ll be times you won’t feel like making music… being independent will serve you well because you can relax, take time off and then lock in again with a refreshed approach and mindset.
You keep all your money
Nothing beats the feeling of earning money knowing you won’t have to pay out a single cent to anyone but yourself.
Being an independent artist means you’ll get to keep all revenue from streaming, album purchases, tours, shows, merch etc.
Which is great because you can use your earnings however you want to with no label breathing down your neck about their cut.
“I believe in creative control. No matter what anyone makes, they should have control over it.” – David Lynch
Being an independent artist allows you to have full control of what you music you make, how you make it, when you make it and why you make it. This is very important because you can freely proceed with your art in whichever direction you see fit.
Labels usually have a say in your how you make your art which makes making music difficult.
Cons of being an independent artist
Now that we’ve discussed various advantages of being an independent artist, it is key that we also look at the downside to being an indie artist.
With no record label on your side, you’ll have to go at building relationships on your own.
As an indie artist, the connections and relationships you’ll build will be limited because you won’t have either the resources or reach that record labels have.
Labels have dedicated stuff handling things like relationship building and establishing a firm foothold in the music industry.
this is a luxury you’ll not enjoy independently.
Being an artist is a demanding job and not only own your artistic abilities but your finances too.
The simple fact is you’ll have to spend money to make music and distribute it.
Most independent artists don’t have the financial muscle to handle being a musician which is they choose to sign with record labels.
As an independent artist you’ll have to take up the role of managing your brand. This is not at all an easy thing to do and can be time consuming.
Artists being their own managers usually doesn’t work because most independent artists don’t have the knowledge to carry this out effectively….plus, it can be time consuming and can make the art suffer.
Pros of being signed to a label
Let’s now get into the various advantages of being signed to a record label.
Less financial worry
Record labels will handle all costs involved in the production, marketing and distribution of music which is great because the artist can focus on making the music rather than figuring out how to raise funds to push their music.
Record labels rely on other music industry people to help them keep business going… this is why being signed to a label can be beneficial….
It can help you take advantage of the record labels connections and use them to the best of your ability to push your career forward.
Focus on the art
With little to no worry about managing your self, record labels allow you to focus your efforts on making music while they handle and manage your affairs.
Like I mentioned above, labels have staff all dedicated to carry out their specific roles which means they can easily delegate all your matters to their staff which means less stress for you.
Record labels invest heavily into branding because they know the value of having a good brand.
Being signed to a label will have them properly nurture your brand to turn it into a marketable commodity which can be beneficial because even if you decide to leave the label…
All the branding done for you will still stand and your fanbase will still be loyal to you which is valuable if you choose to take the independent route.
Cons of being signed to a label
Now that we’ve gone over the advantages of being a signed to a label, let’s also discuss the various disadvantages that are associated with this.
The downside in signing most record label deals is that you’ll have to give part of your revenue to the label so they can recoup the money they invested in you and realise a profit.
Lack of creative control
Record labels at times will provide artistic direction for the purposes of the bigger picture which is often times about profit.
This will mean you as their artist will have to give up your creative freedom….which can be limiting.
Copyright ownership transfers
Most record deals will have the artist share almost more than half of their copyright ownership to the record label.
This means the record label will have a say in what happens to the records.
Most label deals are difficult to get out of and this is a prevailing trend in most of them. This poses a danger to independent artists that are in over their heads because they may end up working for the record label for years just to honor agreements to avoid legal trouble.