Why Aren’t You Signed to a Record Label?
As a full-time independent musician, two of the questions I get asked most frequently are:
“Why aren’t you signed to a record label?” and
“Would you sign a record deal if you were offered?”
I’ve answered these questions hundreds of times – to fans, family members and even curious strangers. So I thought I’d write a blog to explain my reasoning and consolidate my personal thoughts.
If you know me, then you’ll know that I’m a pretty concise and straight-to-the-point kind of guy, so I’ll answer these questions in such a manner. Hopefully it will help people to understand some of the realities of being a musician in this day and age (and perhaps if you’re a serious musician and/or entrepreneur you’ll relate to it!)
Question 1: “Why aren’t you signed to a record label?”
There are several reasons why I am not signed to a record label:
1/ I’ve never actively tried to get signed to a record label
From the time that I first started taking music somewhat seriously, up until the present day, getting signed to a record label has never been an explicit goal of mine. My life goal is to inspire millions of people through my music, words and actions.
If you look at my career and all of the actions that have led me to this stage then you’ll realise that I’ve always focused on reaching new fans and maintaining relationships with my existing supporters.I’ve never sent a demo to a record label (does that even still work?), auditioned for an ‘X-Factor’ type of show, or done anything specifically to court the attention of ‘music industry executives’.
I think that’s a backwards approach. Whatever your product or art is, build an audience and the industry will eventually have to pay attention – but by then you may not need them.
2/ I’ve never been offered a deal by a serious record label
All that said, I’m not going to pretend that labels are beating my door down trying to sign me and I’m standing here fighting away loads of lucrative contracts.I haven’t yet been in a position where I’ve had a serious offer on the table to consider. This somewhat ties in to the first point but it’s a two way street. I’m aware that there are certainly a few industry insiders who have heard of me, but in their eyes I haven’t yet created enough of a stir for them to be aggressively pursuing me.
It could be argued that I’ve done enough that they should pay more attention (selling 20,000 albums unsigned isn’t exactly typical) but it really doesn’t matter. If anything, it’s a reminder to me that there is still so much more that I can achieve independently.
3/ I like to be an owner, not an employee
I’m very entrepreneurial minded and don’t personally subscribe to the typical employer/employee mandate. My long term vision is to create my own empire, rather than being a cog in someone else’s. Especially if that would mean giving up creative and financial control of my art and livelihood.I want to create a formidable business and then help other talented people to do the same.
Being independent versus being signed is essentially the difference between being self-employed and being employed in any field. It has similar pros and cons and it is up to the individual to decide what format works best for them, their situation and their temperament.
Question 2: “Would you sign a record deal if you were offered?”
This isn’t really a great question because it’s too imprecise. It’s like asking a single person if they’d enter a relationship with a guy/girl if they were offered. It depends, right? Who is the person? What are they bringing to the table? Are they a good match?
So yeah, it depends. Would I be interested in a signing a contract where they’d want to take 90% of my earnings, manipulate my music and image and lock me in for 15 years? (This type of record deal is far more common than you may imagine). Heck no.
But what if a reputable company understood my music and vision and offered me something that was financially fair, allowed me complete creative control and would help me to achieve my goal of reaching and inspiring millions of people? Of course I’d consider it!
I’m not ‘anti record label’. I’m anti getting screwed and anti putting my entire career in someone else’s hands. Especially if there are no guarantees.
In 2016 and beyond, any artist whose primary focus is to ‘get signed’ is somewhat missing the point. It can be a step along the journey but if you spend all of your time and energy trying to impress the Simon Cowell’s of the world then you’re leaving your fate in someone else’s hands. And they can do with it what they wish (including nothing).
If you’re an artist reading this then I’d encourage you to do everything in your power to create your best art, identify your fan base and win them over. If you’re any good then there are probably at least a million people out there who would love what you do.
Make it your duty to find them and improve their lives with your work!
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