The Price of Hits: How Can Independent Artists Compete with Big Labels?By -
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
For independent artists attempting to make it big in the music scene, there is an obvious and daunting obstacle to overcome: the music machine. In the hands of major record labels, this machine is focused on a formulaic production of art. Generally, the machine favors proven winners over cultivating new talent and focuses on safe returns on investment instead of risk-laden creativity. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
The Music Machine’s Formula
The time, financing, and resources put up by the machine can discourage musicians just getting their footing. Some reports put total financial investments at upwards of a million dollars for just one potential hit song. That massive figure includes sourcing a team of producers, songwriters, and lyricists who collaborate on creating the songs; then, the actual recording process takes place. Once the songs are recorded, they must be distributed and marketed, which includes creating collateral material (music videos, ringtones, etc) and sending the artist on the road to promote the song and perform. Sometimes the formula works, and the song is a hit. Sometimes it doesn’t, and it’s a costly failure.
As an independent artist, you may look at the machine and think there is no way to succeed against the machine. Relax. As daunting as the machine is, the music industry has never been so accessible to the average musician.
First, you don’t have to invest a million dollars to make a hit track. You do need talent, timing, and hard work; you need to think like a business. If you’re writing your own music, you don’t need to hire teams of songwriters. You might want a producer or manager for guidance. You can find good (even great) studios at a fraction of the machine’s cost, or use the many software programs and hi-def audio equipment available to record, mix, and master your own music. You can promote your band’s gigs and upcoming releases at a relatively low cost using your band’s website and the many social media platforms available. For the best impact, get your music in front of the right people as often as possible. You can also find and set up the distribution channels that best suit your band’s needs.
Second, define success for your music career. Is success making millions on each single, or is it simply sharing your passion for your music with a dedicated fan base through performances and sales of your songs? For the best results, keep making your art the priority.
How do you, as an independent artist, compete against the music industry machine? Do you think it’s possible to compete? Do you focus on putting out a record-breaking hit song, or have you defined success differently?