• By: Keith Whittier

The Relevance of the Record Label

As we all know, record labels are still a big part of the music industry. There is a reason they’ve been around for so many years, because they are smart. In this day and age, they have figured out new and very interesting ideas to help them evolve, utilize the new technology and thrive from it. Universal is worth over twenty billion dollars and counting.  Pretty relevant to me, but are they still necessary?

Now, to be honest, of course you can do it yourself. However, you’re going to need help, resources, more time than you could possibly imagine and you guessed it; money. The cost of going it alone is huge.

Labels still give artists the clout when it comes to booking agents, touring and getting your music played. The benefit in the grand scheme is that competition is fierce, and that means labels need to be flexible now more than ever. A lot of artists automatically think that a label means money. Spending money doesn’t guarantee any kind of success. Making sure you get a good deal, make sure you look at things such as release guarantees etc, but taking your career into your own hands while gently placing it in someone else’s hands is a must.   

As an artist, we constantly search for that validation, that someone to tell us that all of the sacrifice, hard work and thoughts of did I make the right or wrong decision of my life thinking I could make it? The label is still that validation even to the artists who say they would never sign with one. When that carrot is dangled after so many years of slugging it out against the million other artists across the country, it’s hard to say no. Believe me, I’ve been there. 

I’ve seen it from an indie label and then from one of the world’s largest labels.  We were able to do things most musician’s only dream of only to have it cut short because 30,000 records out of the gates just wasn’t enough. But…we had the validation, which until this day still resonates as much as it did then. Twenty years of wishing, hoping, praying, sacrificing, relationship destroying, and all the blood, sweat and tears our bodies could muster ended, but being on the label was all worth it.  We saw the other side, the behind closed doors side. It felt amazing, and it was all because of the labels that went to bat for us and believed we had what it took to take us to the next level.

In its simplest form, a label also lets an artist be just that. An artist. They do the grunt work while you can do what they need you to do, which is be creative.  Being signed is still a ton of work however. Being up at the crack of dawn for press and radio interviews, touring nonstop and spending most of your time away from family and friends is generally only the beginning. Your downtime needs to be spent writing and recording demos as staying current is imperative in this day and age. Again though, it was all worth it.

Write great music, put on amazing live shows, and be the best you can be in all areas. They will find you and they will come to you. Can you do it on your own? Of course, but will you get as far as you would with a major label? Odds are no but it has happened. Just be smart about any deals that may come your way. Do your research and have a great team in place to help you through the process.  First things first though: write a hit song.