Is it Worth Signing With a Label or Better to Remain Indie

March 5, 2020

When it comes to progressing as a musician, there are three paths an artist can choose for his or her career.
Most new artists start as independent, or indie, unless they have existing industry connections. As a musician becomes more popular, the question becomes whether to continue as an independent artist or to join forces with a small or major label.

Starting as an Indie Artist

When you are not signed to a label, this means you have complete creative control over your music. You are in control of marketing, promotion and deciding which next steps you will take as an artist.

You’ll also retain all rights and revenue generated from sales, streams, and licensing. However, this ultimately means that all of the burdens for success fall on your shoulders.

While your talent alone might help capture the attention of local fans, reaching the regional, national, or international levels will probably be difficult to do on your own. This is where signing with a record label can help.

Signing with a label will help put PR and marketing support behind you, plus it allows you to network with other artists also signed to the same label for cross-promotional opportunities.

There are two types of labels for you to consider: small or independent labels and major labels.

Independent Record Labels

A small or independent record label provides you with a team of professionals who believe in your music. Independent labels have smaller rosters than major labels, meaning their team will have more time to dedicate to your growth.

Independent labels tend to also offer a larger percentage of revenue to their artists than major labels do, though funding larger projects can be more difficult for these smaller labels.

Major Record Labels

One of the biggest pros to signing with a major label is the funding the label can provide for things like recording, touring, album production and distribution, marketing, and merchandise. Major labels have major connections with industry leaders and professionals, which can create new opportunities for you along the way.

These labels also already have a reputation in the music industry, meaning that if they back you, others in the industry are more likely to take notice.

Some cons of major labels include a large artist turnover rate and deals that aren’t necessarily created with the best interest of the artist in mind. Artists are subject to small royalties and generally do no get to keep creative control or own the rights to their music.

Finally, it can be very difficult to capture the attention of a major record label.

Making the Right Choice for Your Career

There are pros and cons to each approach which should all be considered with care. Without a label, you have limited resources to aspects like recording, distribution, marketing, and networking with influential members of the industry. A label can provide you with monetary access for your projects, open new doors, and offer important opportunities.

Depending on the type of musician you are and your goals for growth, one avenue may be more beneficial for you than another. Take the time to research each option, consider your personal needs, and always ask questions.

Also, consider that if you’re an unknown artist you don’t get to decide to work with a label. They will decide if they want to start a partnership with you. First, you will have to impress them enough for them to invest in you.