“I don't want to sign with a major record
label,” seems to come from the lips of most songwriters
and artists these days. Everybody wants to sign with an Indie label
or take the Do-It-Yourself route.
But there's a problem. Most musicians think that they'll
get special treatment being signed to an Indie label because of
the small roster. While that's often true, there's another
side to signing with an Indie that most bands and artists rarely
Not only are the rosters much smaller, so are the label's
staff and budget! Quickly, how many platinum-selling artists can
you think of that are on an Indie label? One, two… a few at
most? And over what period of time? Years?
TAXI.com president, Michael Laskow is outspoken about why a major
record label might still be your best bet – at least for the
time being. He raised this point while moderating the Major Label
A&R panel at last year's TAXI Road Rally, and not one
of the thousand musicians in the audience could argue his point.
No hands were raised when Laskow asked if anybody in the ballroom
had made more than chump change as an independent artist using the
Internet as their primary marketing channel.
Yes, the record industry is melting down! But it's not because
the major labels can't break an artist. The reason is that
95% of all music consumed in the U.S. is illegally downloaded. If
people could steal meat through a wire with relative impunity, wouldn't
Would we blame the butchers and grocery stores for a rapid decline
in their industry?
So, why then do we equate the downward spiral of the record
industry with major labels ripping off musicians? Yes, they've
been heavy handed. Yes, they are about making a profit!
Don't you want to make money with your music? Lots of money?
Guess what? Your chances of getting the big house, the fancy cars
and flying around on private jets are practically zip if you're
on an Indie label. Most independent labels only print up 2-3,000
copies of each new release. They have tiny marketing budgets. They
can't get you on the big, major market radio stations you
need to get played on to have a hit. Every now and then, an indie
will have real success, but take a look at the fine print.
Most successful artists on Indie labels are on imprints
of major record labels. It's the majors providing the manpower,
money and expertise to break the artist. But don't be fooled. The
most Indies don't have major label distribution.
So, if an Indie label only prints a couple thousand units and doesn't
have much in the way of cash, tour support, staff or marketing expertise,
aren't you better off manufacturing a couple thousand CDs
on your own and marketing them through CDBaby or Tunecore?
Sure, if you don't have a job or a mortgage payment! Can
you really spend eighteen hours a day working on being your own
label? Do you have tens of thousands of dollars to throw at your
marketing? A major label will spend hundreds of thousands or more!
How do you plan on getting your music on the radio? Can you afford
to hire a radio promoter? How then, will you compete with the major
labels that can and do?
Can you afford to drop everything and spend your last dime on touring
for a year? A real record label would give you a touring budget
— maybe a hundred grand or two for the first year. Can you
match that? You'll need to if you want compete at that level.
Let me put it to you this way? How many web sites do you currently
have your music on? MySpace, ReverbNation, Facebook, Twitter, iTunes?
And how much money have you made as a result of having your music
out there on sites with millions of visitors?
$100,000 last year? No?
How about $10,000 last year? Hmmm…. Goose eggs there too?
Did you even make $1,000?
The buzz is that it's a great time to be an independent
artist. Not for you?
Guess what? You are not alone! Most people who press up 1,000 CDs
never sell more than a couple hundred. And most of those
people are doing all the same things you're doing… the MySpace,
Twitter… all of it! And they aren't selling any music either.
C'mon, you knew this didn't you?
Then why have you joined the chorus of, “the major record
You might only get 15% of the gross, but wouldn't you rather
have 15% of a record that sells a million units than 100% of nothing?
Brent Defore is a
pseudonym for a semi-popular Indie artist who wishes he could find
a way to get his music heard by a major record label A&R department.
He is currently gigging like crazy in his own town. He has sold
176 copies of his own CD, and made $158.28 from selling downloads
of his music.