A record label is either a big or small company that produces, issues, and promotes the music of the artists signed under them. In this current generation, artists can live by and grow their career on their own without a record label’s help. What any record label can do, can also be done now by artists with the tools we have available now. However, having no record label can be quite hard since every responsibility will fall on the artists.
If you can’t have a big record label you can sign to then it would be best if you find an independent one. Indie labels may have smaller budgets to fund promotional things and weaker influence towards the press, but they do advantages too. For one, you will have a higher percentage of using the label’s resources since they have fewer artists under them. Another, is that you will make more money per sold unit and even negotiate a better deal with them.
With these things being said, let me enumerate some of the things a record label can do for you as an artist:
- Fund Your Release
This is the first among everything else, of course. Indie artists need the money to go on and be successful with their music and what joy would it be to have someone to fund you and your music, right? Record labels fund everything. They give you a budget for your studio and producer fees, your music video and video promotions, and even the replication of your physical albums like CDs, cassette tapes, and custom vinyl records. If you’re a musician without a label, you might not be able to easily risk a few thousand dollars to make some vinyl, for example.
A12-inch or 10-inch vinyl pressing service takes a while to make and it’s especially not so cheap even with just the simplest black vinyl and basic vinyl record sleeves. In the US, there are companies that offer custom vinyl pressing in small quantities but unless you’re loaded, you need money to have these vinyl records and other record stuff without dipping into your personal savings.
- Distribute Your Music
This is a service very much needed by indie artists from most record labels now. For most indie artists, they sign contracts that would just let them acquire a record label’s distribution service, since having a distributor would be better to reach foreign audiences than them having to distribute their music on their own.
If you sign to a record label, they can use their already established distribution network and secure your global distribution online like in Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora, and in actual music stores. That’s just how it works. People prioritize people they know.
- Market You and Your Music
Another good thing about record labels is that they help you to market yourself and your works. Having a record label with you will help you have access to their marketing strategies and their marketing strategists. You won’t need to rack your brains too much for feasible marketing plans since you have professional people to think with you and for you. You won’t even have to PR for yourself since they will do it for you.
They can contact the media to promote you and your newly released single, EP or studio album. They can also secure radio plays of your songs and radio, TV, and youtube channel guestings like in ELLE, Billboard, iHeartRadio, etc., for you.
- Connect You to Industry Pros
They can also connect artists to well-known people in the music industry like producers, lyricists, and even popular artists of the record label. This is a great opportunity to grab because you might be able to collaborate with the hotshots in the industry and maybe even the people you idolize.
It will also boost your popularity and widen the range of your listeners. Another thing is that you might have the chance to be the front act for an already popular artist, if they ever have one, which will also help you promote yourself and your music.
- Secure Sponsorships
If you’ve signed a contract with a big record label, then you might have corporate sponsorships easily. This has been an important part of a record label’s revenue since music sales have been declining. Corporate sponsorships can be makeup, clothing, beverages, perfumes, accessories...anything that’s willing to pay you to represent their brand. This partnership may also help you promote yourself especially if the brand or product you have a partnership with is popular or widely used.
Record labels, big or small, have the contacts and the know-how. They know how to deal with these people, how to negotiate, how to prevent you from getting scammed.
Basically, record labels give you money and sell you. If you do it alone, you can maybe reach thousands, but if you sign with a label, you might get hundreds of thousands. And just a disclaimer, not everything on the list is going to be done by every label since it still depends on them if they have the capacity to do them. It may also depend on the contract you signed with them. Ask yourself if you’re ready to go big or you want to keep it slow and steady. If your answer is 100% big and fast, then go to the fast lane with a record label. This could turn you from a small town band to a rockstar. Just a warning, you have to be wary. Make sure you are totally committed because Notorious BIG might be right when he said “Mo money, mo problems.”