• Phil McDonald

Record Labels - What you need to know

Getting signed would be pretty good wouldn't it? We work hard as musicians, putting in the hours writing and rehearsing, playing gigs, trying to build a fan base so we can do what we love instead of the boring 9-5. But is getting signed all it's cracked up to be? Let's explore this one.

First of all, do you need to be signed to a label? This sounds like a no brainer but if you're good at running yourself as a music business, on top of the admin, accounts, you can organise gigs or even a tour with little or no help then you probably don't need a record label. These days it's so easy to put your music out there you no longer the clout of a record company to land a distribution deal. A couple of decades ago the idea of running the show yourself as a truly independent artist would have been nearly impossible. But things have changed so much in recent years that it's something that's easily attainable and the bonus is you're don't have a record company taking their cut of the money, and you own the recordings. Many record deals mean the artist never owns the rights to their songs. Many major, massive selling artists have discovered this to their cost.

If however you aren't so good at the business and administration side of music then a record deal would no doubt help you out and give your career a huge push forward. So what type of record label would be right for you? From the outset it's important to bear in mind a major label such as Sony BMG or Warner Group aren't going to come in and snap you up. But there are plenty of smaller and medium sized independent labels and even bedroom labels who would be interested in you if you're making waves and going places with your career. This all depends on where you are in your career of course so do your homework. There's no point approaching a medium sized indie if you're only playing a handful of gigs a month with one EP under your belt. Make sure you're looking at the right label for your genre. Don't approach a metal label if you're a folk artist.

So what will and what won't a label do for you? A good record company will open doors for you, introduce you to people you probably wouldn't otherwise meet. They can connect you to a producer that would suit your music for example. Having the backing of a record label will certainly give your career a push in the right direction and give you a boost. On the other hand, a record label won't give you loads of money and make you a megastar overnight. It's a myth that with a record deal comes a big advance allowing you to go out and buy an expensive guitar and a Ferrari. Any expenses incurred have to be paid back before you see any money from record sales. Another thing a record company won't do is put out anything you write and record. They will make the final decision and can quite easily not release something if they so wish. It's not uncommon for an artist to be "shelved" without their record ever being released before being quietly dropped.

With everything in the music industry you need to carefully consider your options and what's best for you. A record deal might be good for you, it might not. I discuss this in more detail on this week's podcast which you can listen to here, just click on your podcast provider of choice.

As ever, thanks for reading.


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