Traditionally, signing a record deal meant you’d hit the big time. This is what all the artists were aiming for, as it meant your music would finally be heard on the radio and your records would be in stores up and down the country. But times have changed. People just don’t go into record stores and buy physical records like they used to. So, it begs the question, do you actually need a record deal?
On the one hand, yes, signing with a big label will still give you a head start. These guys have a marketing budget you can’t possibly compete with. They’ll promote you and they’ll get your record into stores. But they’ll take their cut for doing this. We’ve all heard about the terrible deals done by some big-name artists and how they lost on a lot of money that should have been theirs, perhaps giving big labels a bad name. But it’s a balancing act. They take their cut and you may be left with a surprisingly small amount per sale, but you are much more likely to get more sales with a big label.
Independent record labels are well known for taking a closer interest in their artists. These guys aren’t owned by major companies and they usually use independent distributors to get your record out there. The upside of going with an independent is you usually have more control over what’s happening, you’ll be treated more fairly and independents are cool, right? Well, yes, but what you gain in one area you lose in another. An independent label is unlikely to be able to distribute and promote you to the same level as a major, bringing you fewer sales.
So, to the question, do you need a record deal? There is a third option, and that’s what you do everything a record deal would do yourself. Let’s not fool ourselves, this will be tough. You have to promote and market yourself and you have to distribute your music yourself. You have to be the one who persuades a record store to take your record and put it on their shelf, and you have to actually create that record first. Or do you? The sad truth is, record stores are closing down all the time. The ones who are still going carry less stock. And consumers just don’t buy physical records like they used to. So, do you really need to worry about getting physical records into stores?
The aim of most artists is still to sign a record deal with a major label and have their music distributed throughout the world. It’s the dream. But if this doesn’t happen, don’t think you’ve failed. Independents are going strong and could be a simple stepping stone to something bigger. Even doing it yourself could put you in front of the right people and lead to that desired big deal. Do you need a record deal? No, you don’t need one, especially these days. But you probably still want one!
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