A friend of mine named Shane Cook is taking some music biz classes and asked for my opinion on a few things. Bet he regrets that decision! 😉
As someone who has been both on a record label, and produced records independently, what are some misconceptions aspiring artists may have about signing with a label?
That it’s a good idea. It is not.
The only time/reason/situation people start thinking it is a good idea to sign with a label is AFTER the label has made enough money off of them that the artists feels like they’re starting to make some money too. If you’ve got a couple million in the bank because you’ve got yourself a hit, you probably aren’t scouring your label’s accounting records trying to find the millions they’ve squandered on your behalf. Now, you could argue, without those millions spent, you wouldn’t have that hit single! You may have a point there, however, most acts on a label these days DON’T get that “hit” and thus, are left in legal battles trying to figure out where all the money went (why are we eating dirt and they’re driving Bentleys?)
What advice might you give a talented musician struggling to get discovered?
Stop playing the music industry game and start caring about your fans like they are your family. They are. Or at least they will be, hopefully! Give them prizes, freebies, contests, advance listens, rare demos, free shirts…anything you got to show ’em how much you love ’em. They will only love you more and, everyone wins.
What are a few of the bigger financial and promotional challenges you’ve encountered while during your independence that you may not have encountered on a label?
Tour support is a big one. That said, many labels now expect a portion of performance fee and merch sales in exchange for tour support. I’d love to see what would happen if I spent a million dollars on marketing but I know that free internet work and word of mouth will achieve the same result (perhaps in more time, perhaps in less time, depending on the artist!).
What is the best part about having a record contract?
Other people who are not you doing stuff for you.
Other people who are not you wrecking your life with their bad ideas because they’ll never be as invested in your life as you are.
What is the best part about being an independent musician?
Complete, utter honesty. Nothing is contrived, fake or pre-fabricated. You control your own destiny.
Finding the time. Most split the musical and promotional sides unevenly. In my case, I don’t create nearly as much as I used to.
Do you agree that record labels are becoming a thing of the past with all of the new production technology and networking tools?
I sure hope so! It’s a silly platform and a dying era. The sooner you realize that no one is going to save you, the more likely you are to have a team of people who actually LOVE you (and aren’t just getting paid to) helping you to fulfill your dreams.