Here’s a funny thing to wrap your head around: in almost every interview I’ve done with a nationally known label-signed artist, when I ask them what they miss most about their pre-label or fame days, the answer is always some form of the same: they miss being an indie artist.
I was too– at first. But then we started to dig deeper into what it was they missed and the things that being a major doesn’t allow for in the same way that being indie does. The more we talked, and the more interviews I did around this, the more evident it became that for all the things we might want to change about being an indie artist, there is a special something about being in this stage of your career. One that, all too often, artists don’t appreciate until it’s long gone and replaced with new and arduous tasks that they can’t escape.
Curious about what it is about being an indie artist that major label bands miss most?
It’s no secret that when you sign to a label, you’re often signing onto an agreement that says that while yes, you retain some control in the music you create, the label does have a bigger say than many artists would like. It’s to be expected of course—it’s no different than a start-up gaining investors and those investors having a say in what the company does or how it operates.
Still, going from having the ability to create the music, image, or branding you want and feel most comfortable with to one that a label dictates is appropriate, is a constant source of nostalgia for signed bands.
The ability to create their own release schedule
Being an indie means if you have something you’re excited to create, you get to create it. If you’re thrilled to share it with your fans, you get to do that. No approval needed.
The freedom to take risks
When someone else has invested a boatload of time and money into making sure you’re successful, you don’t get to take risks. At least, not in the same way you used to. That means you can’t just try out a tour in a new city for the heck of it or see if a certain piece of merch resonates or jump on TikTok to spout off your feelings. Like the above, that usually has to be cleared by a team prior to doing it. There isn’t that same level of spontaneous flair.
The beauty of being an indie is that you get to take those risks, you get to simply try new things, have fun, and get scrappy. You get to just be in the moment and enjoy it, without all the overthinking of how it plays out. If it doesn’t work, no big deal, you move on.
The scrappiness of it all
I know, sometimes the scrappiness of being an independent artist can feel daunting. After all, you just want someone to help you out or tell you what the next move is. But here’s the thing that surprised me most about what major label artists miss, it’s being scrappy. It’s the whole chaos of the everyday that we can so often take for granted. It’s why movies and TV shows are made about the upstart of new entrepreneurs. Because that messiness, as tough as it can be, IS the piece that makes us, that we thrive off, that we can grow from.
Signing to a label… it often comes with more polished help but it also takes away that scrappiness that you once thrived off of to create your art and live life on your terms–the way you dreamed it when you first started.
The ability to simply live their life the way they want to….
You don’t realize how good you have it until it’s gone. Sometimes, it feels like you’re doing everything you can just to get noticed but on the flip side, think about the life you’re creating for yourself. You get to play music. You get to play live in front of people who believe in you. You get to connect with fans who genuinely love this thing you’ve created out of nothing–your art. Sure it would be nice to have a bigger budget, a little help, a roadmap, and you’ll get there. But for now, take the time to enjoy that you get to live your life exactly the way you want.
And create the music they want
At the end of the day, it’s about the music. If anything is taking away from the creation of the music you truly want to put into the world, you have to ask yourself: is it worth it? Is this what I want? And, what kind of life gives me the ability to truly create a piece of art I’m excited to share with the world?
As an indie artist, you get to do that. Every. Single. Day. And that’s pretty amazing.
What do you love about being an indie artist?
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR where artists have seen placements on Spotify, Alternative Press, American Songwriter, PopWrapped, & more. She loves ice cream, reality TV, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.