8 Situations When You Might Need A Record Label

1-3y6A2uLsIrdjD10YimEndQWhile much is made of operating as an independent, do-it-yourself artist in the modern music economy having a label at your back can, in certain scenarios, be highly advantageous. Here we look at eight situations in which having the backing of a label works in your favor.


Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0

This blog is mostly about getting along in the new music world without a record label, but there does come a time when having a label is worth considering if you want to jump to the next level as an artist. Record labels are not intrinsically bad, it’s just that you have to weigh the advantages versus the disadvantages to determine whether or not the time is right for you to be associated with one.

This excerpt from my Music 4.1: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age book covers the 8 scenarios where a partnership with a label could be a great career move.

“You might want to consider a label if:

 1. It’s offering you a staggering amount of money. If this happens, either you must be hot enough for a bidding war to have broken out or they really, really believe in your future. Just remember that this might be the last money you’ll ever see from the label, and it may have a significantly negative impact on any credibility that you have with your fan base. Best to test the notion of signing with a label with your tribe just to see their reaction first, since they won’t buy anything from you if they feel you sold them out.

2. You need money for recording, touring, or any other needs. One of the things that labels do really well is to act like a bank by using your music as collateral. Major labels still do this as skillfully as ever before, but is it worth the price you’re going to pay in terms of the freedom that Music 4.0 offers?

1-3y6A2uLsIrdjD10YimEndQ3. You’re spending too much time on certain aspects of a career. A label can take some of the burden of marketing and distribution off your shoulders. You still have to be involved on some level, though, or you run the risk of things getting way off course before it’s brought to your attention. If you don’t have a manager already, that might be a better association to make at this point than to start working with a label.

4. You need expanded distribution. If distribution into the remaining brick-and-mortar stores is beyond what a small indie label can provide, a major label can be your friend. Major labels have the relationships, the sales force, and the means to collect the money. If you’re distributing by yourself, you’ll get paid if and when the stores feel like it because you have no clout. In some cases, you won’t even be able to get into the remaining chains and retail stores because you don’t sell enough to get on their radar. A major label or large indie sells the stores a lot of product, and they’re trusted, so it’s a lot easier for them to get the retailer to take a chance. Further, the label has some leverage in that they can always threaten to withhold in-demand product if they don’t get paid.

5. You want to expand into foreign territories. Let’s say that you have a huge following in Germany via your online efforts, but you can’t service them properly because you live in Kansas City. A major label can use their overseas resources to promote you and get product in the stores there. It saves you the hassle of reinventing the distribution and marketing wheels.

6. You need economies of scale. Sometimes the power of a big label can be used to your advantage since they can cut a better deal with a service (YouTube and MTV come to mind) than you ever could as an indie. 

7. You need major marketing. Another thing that a major label does well is to market you traditionally. If you want airplay on radio and appearances on television, a label may be your only hope. If you want reviews and articles in mainstream media, they still have the clout to get it done.

8. If you feel that you’ve gone as far as you can go as an indie artist. If you need help to push your career over the edge to stardom, then a major label or major label imprint may be the way to go. This is what they do—sometimes well, sometimes not.

Unless you have a specific need for any of the above that you’re sure you can’t fill any other way, it’s best to stay independent for as long as you can as long as you can in order to retain as much of the control over your music and your musical destiny as you can.”

To read additional excerpts from Music 4.1: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age and my other books, go to the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.

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