Music labels are companies that help to market recorded music and videos. Many of your beloved singers, songwriters, and other musical artists are most likely signed to a music label (or a record label). I know a thing or two about music labels. I own an independent music label called BeatCurve. I’m happy to share my knowledge with you!
We have all heard of these labels but what point do they have? Well, there are many areas in which music labels can help an artist achieve fame and spread their music to a wider market.
Music labels function in many ways throughout the music industry. These can include A&R (artist & repertoire) which recruits new artists and develops their careers.
Music publishing is also part of a music label where it arranges for the artist’s music to be published, played and distributed throughout the world via online sales or in a physical form (CDs, vinyl, etc). Music labels also enforce copyright laws for the artist’s music so it becomes their property by law (or the music label’s).
Ask any artists and marketing is probably one of the most important aspects of what they do. Music labels have the resources and funding that most artists couldn’t dream of so they can market their music and brand to a wider audience.
Music labels are here to distribute and market music and artists whether they are newer or more established acts. The more aware the public becomes aware of the label’s artist, the more money they both will generate.
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Are Music Labels Bad?
The answer to this question is not so straightforward. Many of us have heard of horror stories of music labels ripping off their artists, leaving their own pockets lined with cash while the artists are left with nothing. However, this isn’t always the case.
To understand whether music labels are bad, we need to look at their benefits and disadvantages. In recent years, some music labels have moved away from demanding the ownership of master rights with songs.
Instead, they prefer to have the licensing rights for a set period of time before these reverts back to the artist or original owner.
Their negotiating power is far less powerful than it used to be as it is easier for artists to be more independent and self-release in the modern world. This means music labels can be useful for getting your foot through the door of the music industry before taking back complete control of your rights.
The bad side of music labels is out royalties have decreased a huge amount over recent years. Record sales make up 99% of income for many artists so if they are signed to a music label, they will have to hand over a percentage of the music’s earnings which can sometimes be more than half.
Many labels don’t take the risk of developing new artists these days as they believe artists should have established a following already.
While music labels are here to help musicians, unfortunately, they are fundamentally a business that wants to make money rather than do what’s in the best interests of the artist.
Are Music Labels Necessary?
The modern world makes it a lot easier to record music, distribute it, and market yourself. Back in the day, it was very expensive to record and produce music.
The music label would hire a recording studio, professional engineers, producers, and session musicians. This was far too expensive for artists to afford so music labels were very important.
These days, it is different. Most musicians can afford to record and produce music, even from the confines of their own homes. This has been made possible by powerful yet affordable computers and high-tech, cheap recording software.
This way, musicians can have more recording features in their smartphones than big bands of the 1970s had in the best studios. Furthermore, the internet has made it much easier to market yourself whether it’s through social media or video-sharing platforms.
While music labels still have the funds that most music artists don’t have, the ease at which musicians can distribute and market their music leaves many music label’s services less important.
Why Do Artists Create Their Own Label?
This is mainly down to a marketing standpoint. In the past, getting signed to a music label was a very big deal. Music fans and the music industry immediately took note as soon as they saw an act was signed.
This typically meant the artist or band had something unique and music people would want to hear. Therefore, artists who didn’t like the idea of signing with a label were left looking more like amateurs.
To combat this, many acts started their own labels. This way, from the outside, they would look like they are signed to a music label and seemed more professional.
Music labels are certainly not as important in the modern music industry as they were in the past but many artists still create their own labels to get recognition.
Other reasons include being able to keep all of your rights. You wouldn’t have to sign any rights over to another label meaning you keep 100% of your publishing and recording rights.
This means you also get to keep the income you generate as opposed to sharing it with a music label. Many musicians are the last to be paid when signed to a major label but an artist who owns a label keeps 100% of the cash at all times.
Furthermore, you get to make personal terms and conditions. Many labels have limitations on what you can and can’t do but with your label, you will have the freedom to do what you like with your music without any demands or tension from music label executives.
How Do I Get Signed To A Label?
As you may be aware, it’s not that easy to get signed to a music label. Some basics can certainly help you get on course for that big break, however.
Firstly, you need to find your own original sound and build a fan base. Modern-day labels won’t risk taking on an unknown musician so they want you to have put yourself out there and built a large following for yourself.
Also, share your music on all social media and video sharing platforms so more people become aware of you and your music.
The easiest option may be to try and approach a music label directly but this can be hard. Here are some other tips to get that record deal:
- Find your unique style as a recording artist
- Record your music professionally
- Make your live show stand out from the rest
- Practice recording and performing
- Make your branding consistent
- Be very active on social media
- Build a highly devoted fanbase (this gives leverage to artists)
- Make connections with labels and other entertainment professionals