Recently, there have been a lot of commentaries by music business players towards the importance of a record label in the present era. The purpose of this article is to look at the services offered by record labels, their relevance to the growth of an artiste and whether such importance is sustained in this dispensation. It also tries to determine if every talent should get signed into a record label or even pursue the concept.
Historically, the basic services offered by a label include:
- To promote the artiste brand and ensure that he gets to a larger audience.
- Bear the cost of production, manufacturing and marketing of the physical records of the artiste (record here means album).
- To ensure that those physical records are placed in strategic part of the distributors shelf.
- To give an advance to the artiste for sustenance and offset of bills, such advance would be subsequently recouped from the future royalties due to the artiste from the commercial exploitation of the record.
While many felt that the activities of record labels would be reduced or even come to an end with the advent of technology but this has not been the case. These functions or services rendered by the record label are still being executed in this dispensation even with the emergence of new media and platforms.
Instead, most labels have been able to use it to push their artiste extensively, creating departments that would focus on pitching these talents to consumers through the new platforms. It has been able to yield positive results with the aid of huge capital investments and a team of experts.
The question becomes “must an artiste get signed to a record label?”
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Though getting signed into a record label is a positive impact viz-a-vis publicity and the development of an artiste as a notable brand. It does not imply that all artistes are meant to get signed into a record label or that every artiste would do well in a label. Thus, an independent artiste under this era can still carry out the above functions themselves provided that he is committed, hardworking, persistent, understands the music business and have a great team.
Sales of record have changed from physical records sales that involved CD disks to streaming platforms and digital service providers. Hence, an indie artiste can be able to make a record and upload it in any of the streaming platforms. These can be done by utilizing any of the distribution companies that are available. They include: Distrokid, OneRPM, Tunecore, Ditto e.t.c.
Also, an indie artiste can promote his brand, record his songs and build his fan base without the help of a record label. Though this could be slower because of the availability of funds. It should be noted that record labels are scouting for artistes that have a substantial audience base and growth rate.
In addition, advances that usually attracts an artiste to a label can be disregarded, the vital questions an artiste should ask is : (A) Do I really need this advance ? (B)can I survive without it ? (C)can I pay my bills without it? It should be duly observed that this does not extend to recording funds, as such is fundamental to the artistes producing a new record and cannot be understated.
Based on this, it is vital to note that all artistes cannot survive the life of a record label. This is because record labels usually need an artiste that can start generating revenue instantly while some artistes brands need a little more patience to gain that consumer embrace. Hence an artiste should be able to understand the following points before getting signed to a label:
- His brand
- Whether it (brand) can survive the pressure that comes with being signed into a label
- If there are evidences of artistes that have become a notable brands in the label with similar genre and musical approach.
- Also, an artiste should also try to understand the goals of his brand, in relation to whether he wants to be a mainstream artiste or stay in the niche. If the former, record label should be considered as an option but if the later then DIY ( Do it Yourself) as an option should be your focus and you build a team to achieve that.
The writer is not asserting that all artistes should be independent (DIY) but those that are eager to get signed should try to complete the early stages of an artiste development cycle and build their brand before thinking of it. The purpose of this is to enable them have more bargaining power and leverage when in the negotiation table with a record label. For instance, the artiste “Sheyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph”, popularly known by his stage name ‘21 Savage’ owns 100 percent of his Masters (Masters here means 100 percent right to his song usage) even though he is signed to EPIC RECORDS an label owned by SONY MUSIC GROUP. This was because he made sure that he underwent an artiste development stage before getting signed to the label, thus, he had more bargaining power to negotiate a more favorable contract.