Your band has been touring, playing gigs, recorded a short EP, and you even have a manager. People are really responding to your music as your fanbase blooms. At this point, you may be thinking, “It’s time to take things to the next level. We need a record label.”
Here we’ll discuss the difference between major and independent labels, their responsibilities, and how they can help you extend your reach and expand your growth.
What is a Record Label?
Record labels are companies that provide support to artists, from writing and recording music to distribution of the product to the masses. They have several responsibilities, which include new artist recruitment and development (known as A&R), recording, music publishing, copyright enforcement, advertising, promotion, and most importantly, marketing.
Major Versus Independent (Indie) Record Labels
Major record labels represent some of the world’s best-known music artists. In today’s industry, the major labels are huge corporations that own several subsidiary labels specializing in publishing, recording, and promoting specific music genres. For instance, Sony UMG owns sublabel, Columbia Records.
Often referred to as “The Big Three” are:
One of the biggest advantages major labels have over indie labels is they have a lot of money. When it comes to promoting your record, proffering large advances, and investment towards sustained recording, touring, etc., budgets can be substantial. Major labels typically own their own (very large) distribution networks giving them the ability to reach millions of consumers at a time.
At first glance, this may seem like a golden ticket for some artists. However, the cost of being signed to a major record label could mean less creative control over your work, loss of certain ownership rights to your music, and a wide variety of agreements that allow them to take a cut of almost every bit of revenue you make. For example, if a record label finances your album recording, typically they would own part, if not all, of the master rights to the recordings, meaning you would receive only part of the revenue from their use.
Independent Record Labels operate without corporate backing or funding from major record labels. They typically have much smaller distribution networks, sometimes tapping into the distribution resources of their major label counterparts.
Despite generally operating on the outer banks of the music industry, independent record labels have a strong reputation for being in the loop regarding upcoming music trends and providing opportunities for up-and-coming artists who they feel can make it big. Additionally, their deals are usually more artist-friendly, meaning you have more creative freedom and retain a bigger piece of the pie as a rights holder to your works.