Back In The Day
Once upon a time nearly every recording artist was trying to figure out how to get a record deal so they could finally “MAKE IT”. Their strategy was often to get really good at their craft, scrape up enough money for a demo and then get it in front of an A&R of a record label that would hopefully sign them.
Now once upon a time this approach made sense because it took a lot of money to fund a recording project and properly promote it, money that people normally didn’t have. The downside to this was that most artists had very little music business knowledge and leverage as they placed themselves at the complete mercy of major corporations.
For example the sensational female Hip Hop group TLC sold over 65 million records worldwide and is recognized as the second best selling female group of all time right behind Spice Girls. At the height of their careers they only brought home about $15,000 a piece per year and shortly after had to file bankruptcy.
I believe Ariel Hyatt from Cyber PR Music said it best. “Thinking that mainstream media will save you, discover you or put you on the map and make your career is a misguided conception“.
The take away from all of this is that you can’t rely on anyone one else to discover and establish a long stable career for you. It’s the artists responsibility to understand the music business well enough to protect themselves from getting into shady business agreements.
With the rise of digital media record labels have become very reluctant about signing artists. In fact it has become common for artists to receive a recording contract for only 1 song. These days record labels aren’t really interested in developing new artists but rather prefer for artists to already be somewhat established.
These days we have this incredibly powerful tool called the Internet and it has enabled artists to cultivate their own fan base worldwide. The way we consume media has also changed with on demand streaming companies like YouTube and Netflix. The bottom line is mainstream media isn’t as dominant as it once was and Record Labels have been taking notice.
The Major Advantages
If you focus on growing your own following via the Internet you will have a major advantage for several reasons. Probably the biggest advantage is having complete control over your own income and creative control over your music. Secondly if you were to get into negotiations with a record company you would have more negotiating power as you can use the platform that you’ve created as leverage to get a fair deal.
The biggest thing most A&R’s are impressed with isn’t how many twitter followers or YouTube subscribers and video views you have because that can be faked and doesn’t necessarily translate into potential sales. However if you can show them a significant amount of downloads “even if it’s free give aways such as a mix-tape” for a site like Datpiff it will work in you favor for convincing them to make a deal with you.
Weighing Your Options
At the end of the day you have to weigh all of your options. If you are able to create a significant following on the Internet is it worth signing a record deal and loosing revenue percentages? It all boils down to what each party is bringing to the table. If a record label is able to guarantee you things that will take your career to new heights without you having to sell your soul with a slave contract then that might be a viable option. If not then you may want to continue focusing on growing your career independently without any financial or creative limitations.
If you found this article helpful or have a question I would love to hear from you! Please drop your 2 cents in the comments section below and I will get right back to you.