About The Author: Ben Jacklin is one of the founding members of Method Promotion, offering articles on ways to self-promote online, as well as the Method team’s services in representing artists in the world of music promotion. Achievements to date include getting artists’ music played in Ministry of Sound clubs, on BBC radio, and videos played on MTV channels.
Qualified in Music Technology, Ben also keeps his finger on the pulse of the music business, and his passion for music means that he is equally happy striving to promote artists with ten fans or ten million.
Do I Need A Record Label?
You don’t need me to tell you that the internet has changed the way the Music Industry, and the way us music types think about our business. One of the things thrown into disrepute is the way music is released. We can now reach almost anyone via the internet, and we can network and promote online before releasing in virtual formats online.
Of course this is a major contrast to the industry from, say, fifteen years ago, which has led to changes in the role of the record label. Does your average artist even need a record deal nowadays? And should it still be something to aspire to?
Something that our generation’s new found wealth of technology has undoubtedly changed is the equipment available to us. Music can now be made to a professional standard from the comfort of our smelly bedrooms, and the role of a full-blown studio is becoming less important all the time. Where does this come into recording contracts?
There was a time when you’d need studios, and you’d need money to pay for them, and the only way to get this money was to find a Label to take a punt on your tunes. Nowadays, a reasonably priced microphone and a computer can be the mainstay of your studio, and used correctly, can record music to a standard acceptable in the industry. Labels no longer even have to be involved in the creative process of making and recording your music.
The aforementioned isn’t the only change concerning existing labels. I wont go into excruciating detail, but it’s generally agreed that major labels are on their proverbial last legs. On the one hand, they aren’t putting money into discovering new talent, and on the other hand, smaller establishments are cropping up all over the place.
Small Labels and self-releasing artists are becoming the norm, and more and more resources are becoming available to aid musicians from a grassroots level. Help is available with regards to everything from licensing to releasing music, and available to absolutely everybody. The power is shifting from the big labels to the average Joes.
However, is it power you’re looking for? There are many reasons that labels are even still around and providing a great service. If releasing your own music was easy, everybody would be doing it. If you decide that self-releasing is the path you wish to take, it’s important that you realize that you wont be bypassing having a record label, you will BE your record label.
We’ll cover the more glamorous aspects of this shortly, but one must first consider the administrative aspects of releasing music, from licensing to royalty collection to sales figures and beyond. If you can be bothered to do your research and do all of this yourself, then great, but in my experience, creative types are happy to stick to what they do best and take a back seat when it comes to pencil-pushing.
The time and focus needed to release music goes far beyond crossing ‘T’s and dotting ‘I’s, though — a label needs contacts, and a reputation. By releasing on a label you hand this responsibility to them. Any label worth their salt will have built links to the media, and will be working hard to build alliances at all times. If you don’t work with a label you’re going to need to do all of this yourself, and a reputation is not an easy thing to attain.
My view on self-releasing is — how shall I put this? — realistic. So should yours be too. Don’t expect any favors, and be ready for hard work, but hard work is inevitable in making a name for yourself, and if running a label is your chosen method of working hard then the best of luck to you.
A bit of realism isn’t meant as a deterrent; the fact that we even have the option of doing this kind of thing is completely liberating, and I predict that the industry will start to thrive once again as more and more small establishments crop up. Some people are going to have to rise to the challenge.
We don’t have to be afraid of the industry anymore, and if you’re ready to put the hours in, and you’re confident in your ability, then why not? Do your research, rope in all the help you can, and get releasing!