Posted on January 21, 2011 with 0 comments
Back when studio time was expensive and distribution and promotion channels were limited, musicians needed labels to record, distribute, and promote their music. This has changed. Yet, some musicians dream of getting signed to a major label. This is no longer good business sense and there are a variety of reasons why:
The money’s not there: As record producer Steve Albini revealed in a well-known essay called “The Problem with music,” musicians in a moderately successful major-label band with a $250,000.00 advance (which is owed back to the label) can make as little as $4,000.00 per year. In the end, most albums never earn their advance – the only money most musicians see.
You give up creative control: Labels wield a great deal of control over your creative work, and worse, they can go through the entire recording process with you before deciding to withdraw their support.
You give up your rights: The label keeps the right to the recording master of your album forever. A quote from Courtney Love said it best: “The band owns none of its work. They can pay the mortgage forever but they’ll never own the house.”
Major labels are in turmoil: They are losing money, cutting costs, laying off employees, and consolidating to stay alive. The business model is broken.
Artist development: Labels are spending less than ever nurturing new musicians and bands. Cody Willard writes, “They just can’t cut costs to boost cash flow forever. There is no fat left on these labels.”
Taking even more revenue streams: Major labels are trying to get at even more of the artist’s revenue streams. While the labels used to be limited to album distribution and ownership of the master recordings, they are now taking a cut of music publishing, merchandise, live shows, and even sponsorship revenue under the guise of providing a one-stop holistic approach – something that a band can handle more profitably for themselves.
Word to the wise: Spend your time and energy building your fan base not trying to please some fat cat behind a desk.
Source: The Indie Band Survival Guide