Getting signed to a record label is often a goal for many musicians/recording artists ,as it can mean increased exposure ,and ultimately making money from one’s music. When deciding on a record label, artists usually have the choice of either signing with an independent or major record label.
Both have their benefits and their downsides concerning issues such as money, demographics and creative freedom.
Indie vs. Major: A Quick Look
Often, an independent record label caters towards a certain genre or region, so while they might not have the superfluous money and employees to reach the nation ,or the world, they can garner a true and loyal group of fans. Artists are also allotted more creative control in their direction of their market & sound within independent labels. On the flip side, major labels have the funding and staff to market a band or artist nationally and internationally.
The four major international music companies—Warner Music Group, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music Group—often have smaller labels underneath them that can cater more specifically to genres ;but they are still a part of the larger companies that often cannot provide the same kind of working relationship that an independent label can.
From an Expert
Owen Hunsey, a music artist and former manager of Prince, spoke of the differences between independent and major records in a video interview.
“If you believe in yourself and you think you’re fabulous, you’re going to want to be on a major record label.They’re going to get your records into the stores…they will pay you the absolute attention,” Hunsey said later in the video.
Hunsey speaks on the creative direction and relationship, but ultimately focuses on the budget. Independent labels can often work more closely with their artists ,and work to get them a strong fan base ;but they may not have the funds or access to get a band or artist nationwide airplay. In contrast, a major record label will definitely have the funds as well as the ability to get a record airplay, but major record labels are more motivated by the bottom line than what they feel the artist is worth. Hunsey also says the major record labels should have independent offshoots that focus solely on building the fanbase for a band ,or artist, indicating that the relationship between indie and major labels can be, and perhaps should be, beneficial rather than adversarial.
Making the Choice
The choice between signing with an independent or major record label is a big decision for recording artists and musicians. However, groups such as Arcade Fire have proven that major success can be found while on an independent label, and bands such as Motion City Soundtrack have moved back and forth between major and independent labels. Cinematic Music Group, managed by Johnny Shipes, also bridges the gap between major and independent record labels. With a recent partnership with Sony RED ,this will allow Cinematic artists to expand their brand. The company has signed acts like Big KRIT and Joey Bada$$ that have “major” appeal , get radio play, but are still independent with strong fanbases. Cinematic has also funded both worldwide & international tours for both artists such as the Smokers Club Tour & Live From the Underground Tour. On the creative side both artists are very involved with all their visual appeal, musical production & direction of visuals.
Bands and recording artists looking to join a record label have to consider several aspects when thinking of joining a label, such as the demographic reach, creative freedom, marketing techniques and money. When deciding with an independent label, a major label or no label at all, recording artists and musicians searching for a music label should consider what’s their personal direction with their music ,and their long-term goals!