An important aspect to the Internet as a combination global media network and digital toolbox is that it's now much easier for artists to focus on being sole proprietors or collectives and to sign themselves. Yet some musicians will always feel insecure until legitimated by a third party. Any And All Records recently launched to help bridge the gap for those who need a cosign or who just love a bit of conceptual humor.
Any And All Records launched last month in order to erase the "stigma" of being unsigned by signing anyone who wants to join their record label. The only stipulation is that you'll have to agree to this brief contract that features such clauses as:
"I/We understand that signing to Any And All Records as our record label obligates nobody to anything."
"I/We agree to stop calling ourselves 'unsigned' and to encourage others not to use that term."
"I/We understand that if we want to go sign to some other record label, that’s all cool. We totally get that this contract will instantly expire the moment we decide we want to go do that."
"I/We understand that there is no small print, and nobody’s being tricked into anything here. No money will change hands and nobody’s situation or rights are different than they were before we agreed to this."
"I’ve never – as a listener, journalist, musician or friend of musicians – found any remotely useful distinction between being ‘signed’ and not signed...Unsigned implies that either the ideal state is to be signed and this person isn’t, or that there’s some qualitative meaningful difference between an artist on a label and one who who isn’t. Both of those statements are steaming piles of bullshit."
As recent signee Ardie of Cult Fiction points out:
"The idea may seem to be just about giving music labels the finger, but I think it’s also about getting over this idea that getting signed is a musician’s ultimate goal. I could maybe understand that mentality from someone living in an era when the only way one could ever dream of having one’s music heard any further than the local pubs you played in and the only way of increasing the possibility of living a life where your main source of income was music so that you could just devote all of your time and efforts to the thing you love was to get signed. But with the way we can distribute music online now, getting signed is not something quite as pertinent."
And that's the power of the Internet. You can do things on your own. You can sign yourself. And if you're not interested in being on Any And All Records, which is more of a conceptual spur though it might be useful for a wee bit of marketing and a logo, you can start your own business. You don't need the label's money because they're not going to sign you till you have a following and if you have a following you can get your own money via crowdfunding.
As the folks at Any And All Records point out, they're not going to do anything beyond what you see on the site but there are plenty of great services for you to do it on your own. You know, DIY.
So take charge and sign yourself to a sole proprietorship (which is basically what most unsigned artists actually are), sign yourself to Any And All Records or sign yourself to your own LLC. Just don't call yourself unsigned unless you honestly believe that your primary goal and your only route to legitimation is signing to a label. Either way, most of the work you need to do is the same. So get back to work!
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and is soon launching Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.