By: Zessa Ghaisani |
Back in the earlier days, musicians were set to a mindset that they all had to be signed to a major record label to succeed, but that mindset has been erased slowly now that globalisation and technological development have made everything easier to distribute using the power of the internet and social media. Musicians no longer need a signed contract with major record labels to distribute their music, they all can produce music easily thus making rapid growth within the independent music industry. But what is it exactly that differentiates major record labels with independent (indie) record labels?
Major record labels—you name it, Sony Music, Warner Music, Musica Studios, Nagaswara, Trinity Optima, etc—have big funds to market and distribute their artists. This is good, of course, since any artists who got record deals with these major labels usually have a bigger chance to get discovered by everyone. But not every record label is “big” or “major”.
Record labels may be small, localised, and independent—this is what we call an “indie label”. Independent record labels’ distribution area may not be as big as that of major record labels’, since they usually do not have a complex organisational structure or even large funding. They’re also most likely to be more “artist-friendly” and their participating artists may have a bigger share of profit. Thanks to the internet, “independent artists” can be discovered easily nowadays, there are even some communities dedicated to independent artists (and aspiring independent artists).
Since the growth of the independent music industry, there’s a stigma that major labels are ‘not that good’ for aspiring artists since there’s also a mindset that major labels usually limit their artists’ potential due to the “is it promising enough?” or “that is not radio friendly enough” notion or even the usual “we need something that can easily go viral” – they sometimes forget the essentials of music business in the first place. The main roles of any labels—whether it’s major or indie, are 1) to be an interface between the artists/musicians and the market (including songs, contents, and copyrights), 2) networking, and 3) creating a ‘brand’ for the artists.
Now the question is, what kind of label will suit you? Do you need a large amount of funding or one that an independent label can provide for you?
Let’s take a look at the pros & cons first.
Independent “Indie” Labels:
- “Artists friendly” when it comes to the contracts and the shared profits within. This is, indeed, beneficial for aspiring artists.
- A close relationship between the label owner and the signed artists since their circles are not that big, and the artists typically work one-on-one with their representatives.
- The labels sign you because they love you, and your music. It’s not because the music you produced is “radio friendly” or “top 40 worthy”, but because the labels find that your music is one of a kind and they love it.
- Lack of funding, well this is clear enough that indie labels don’t have that much funds compared to major record label since they do not have major investors behind their fundings… So the promotions and exposures you’re going to get are kind of limited.
- The ‘simple’ organisational structure within the labels, there is a big possibility that any kind of disorganisation will happen, and other things that’ll be done incorrectly.
- Less influence and power in the music industry
- Excessive amount of fundings, since major labels have big companies behind their backs – their investments in their artists are also big. So there will be no worries for the marketing funds, distribution funds, and stuff. They have it all!
- They have a big networking circle since they’ve been in the industries for years and also the power of the cash speaks it all.
- The reputation earned if you’re signed to a major label will most likely be good, since it’s no secret that to get signed into a major label is not an easy job so people will think that you are ‘good enough’
- The contracts are not so “artist friendly”… well, this is no secret since you are funded with big amounts of money, they will ‘control’ you with the contract that you’ve signed. This will affect your creativity in producing music and your musical style of course.
- They’re corporate entities, so it’s all about business, they need artists who can sell well, not artists who can produce music well. If your music is good but it doesn’t get into the charts or it’s not ‘radio friendly’ enough, well, say bye to your contract. With their power, they can ‘fire’ you and sign a new artist to replace you easily.
So, which one do you think will fit you? If you want to have full rights to your music, you may choose an independent label to sign you. But if you want bigger cash to market your music, try catching some major labels’ attention—which isn’t that easy, and voila!, you will get that record deal, and your name will be everywhere in no time. One thing to note again, with technological development nowadays, indie or major is not that big of a deal anymore. You both can get the exposure with the help of the internet and social media!
Talks with Warner Music executives at Archipelago Festival 2018