Record Labels

Do You Need A Record Label?

By NationWide Source
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

If you are in the middle of recording an album or are dreaming of doing so one day, you might have asked yourself whether or not you need a record label, and what they even do. Here is some information to help you decide.

Why Labels Exist

Record labels exist to fund music recording projects, which can cost thousands of dollars. Labels sign artists they believe will be profitable then oversee the production process, from song selection to recording to marketing to distribution. Established labels can offer artists several benefits including their vast experience, important connections, and deep pockets.

Major Labels: Drawbacks

The music industry has undergone numerous changes over the last fifty years. Notably, a series of mergers has resulted in only a handful of major recording companies. Because of the ratio of talent to labels, it can be difficult to sign with these labels or receive focused attention after signing. A management company that invests in artist promotion could make signing on easier. Big record labels are notorious for contracts that do not benefit the artist. The contracts can require that artists repay various percentages of recording, touring, and/or merchandising expenses. Artists who don’t, or whose albums don’t make enough of a profit, might be dropped. Lastly, major labels often own master recordings or the rights to the music.

Alternatives to Major Labels

While some artists still dream of being signed by a major label, there are two viable alternatives to major record labels. The first is to use independent labels, which have varying degrees of industry clout and available financing. These labels generally allow artists more control over the project and may provide more-focused attention than larger labels can. However, artists might have to invest more money in the process up front.

Another option is to release your music yourself. It can be difficult to make money with a self-released album (unless you perform in public a lot or get media exposure), but it’s not impossible. The upside is that you absolutely own and control your music. The internet is a fantastic tool that has made the process easier. You can research the stages of the process, hand-pick your studio, promote your music and events the way you want, and distribute your music. There are numerous websites for streaming or selling your music online, and social media outlets are vital tools for promoting your music.

Have or do you use a record label? Why or why not?

See also: Performing vs. Recording: A Musician’s Focus, 5 Questions to Ask Before Recording Music, The Right Recording Studio For Your Music


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