It is 2022. The music industry has changed since the digitization of music, music streaming services, etc. You are an artist. You are a musician. You are creative. So, should you sign with a label or remain independent? This article will help you weigh the pros and cons to make the best decision for yourself.
There are many pros of being an independent artist. You can maintain complete control over the creation of your music, the style of your music, and the tone you want your music to have. A huge positive is that you keep the entirety of profits from your music – none has to go to an overhead group like a label. Very importantly, you own all your music. This can be a huge advantage in the future, despite not seeming like a large issue at the beginning of your career. Additionally, your music may be easier than ever to distribute without a record label. Many online streaming platforms are available to use for distribution to reach listeners. You will also have complete control over your career and choices you make with and about your music.
However, there can also be some cons of being an independent artist without a record label. You may have fewer financial resources at your disposal. This can be a big hurdle for an artist at their start because of the lack of cushion or safety net that a record label may provide. You will also have to deal with creating your own network and foregoing the established network that a record label may already provide. This ties into another potential flaw, not using a label leads to less backing from people in the industry who already have experience to support you. Having less support may also mean that your time to make music is divided with your other jobs and/or responsibilities.
There are several advantages of working with a record label. An existing label means there are more resources and financial support to pour into your music. Signing with a label often comes with a financial advance that you would not have on your own. A record label also comes equipped with a pre-existing network of people in the industry. Along with the previous concept, a record label comes with an already established reputation in the music industry. This type of experience helps with support, marketing, and proven strategies.
Record labels are not all good, though, there are many disadvantages of working with a label. First, as an artist, you have less control over your own creative stylings and musical choices because you are beholden to the label. You do not get to keep all of the money made through your music. Record labels skim a portion of your earnings (royalties) as a return on their investment they made into you as an artist. You do not maintain ownership of your own music in the same way you do when you work independently. Additionally, contract deals can be difficult to navigate when you’re one individual compared to the established company of a record label.
One of the most common examples of an artist who made a huge name for himself independently without a label, is famed hip hop artist, Chance the Rapper. He rose to prominence with his Grammy winning album Coloring Book in 2017. This was the first album to chart on Billboard that didn’t have a record label and was only streamed.
In the end, there are many things to consider and it is largely dependent on your specific situation. Certain advantages and disadvantages will ring true for you and your music. Or, some pros and cons might be more impactful based on your circumstances compared with others. It is important to remember the importance of your original music and what path you would like to pursue growth.