20
Nov
08

Why You Should (or Shouldn’t) Seek a Major Label Deal…

This post is for all of those artists who still believe that the only way to have a successful career in the music industry is to get signed to a major label recording deal.  During the course of doing research for my label’s business plan, I came a across a real diamond.  Recently, Ian C. Rogers (of TopSpin.com) gave a Keynote Address at the GRAMMY Northwest MusicTech Summit 2008.  In his address, he broke down perfectly the relationship between artists and labels in the new musical landscape.

Here’s an excerpt from Ian’s address:

it’s hard to deny there’s a power shift going on from label to artist, and therefore the artist’s closest business partner, the artist manager. This isn’t to say labels aren’t valuable. A lot of people like to line this debate up as label vs. independent, but that’s not how I see things. What I see happening is artists having a choice, and labels needing to prove their value. It’s no longer the de facto dream of every musician to “get signed”. Instead of doing a 360 deal with a label artists are able to do a 360 deal with themselves and choose their business partners based on who is going to add the most value. If you’re an unknown pop-punk band from Orange County would you benefit from the marketing and branding help Epitaph Records could provide? Hell yeah. If you’re Joe Purdy would you benefit from what a major label adds? Perhaps, but what would you give up in the process? Artists now have some leverage in their ability to earn a living without making the leap.

Again, there are only two players in the music business that matter at the end of the day: the artists and the fans. The rest of us either add value or get in the way. Don’t get me wrong, over the years labels have added a tremendous amount of value through financing, A&R, marketing, promotion, etc. I’m just saying that every player needs to either understand how it truly adds value or it needs to get out of the way..

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.  The point here isn’t to rail against major labels.  It just outlines what I’ve been saying from the very beginning — major label deals are not the only way to a successful music career.  Yes, the labels can (and have to ) add value to your career, with marketing and branding help.  But far too many times I come across stories where major label hurt artists’ careers, instead of helping.

So yes, a major label deal can be a good thing, if the label adds value to your career. But if they don’t, you’re much better off staying independent, in my opinion.

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