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Common Misconceptions About a Modern Music Career Part 2: You Need a Record Label to Succeed

Common Misconceptions About a Modern Music Career Part 2: You Need a Record Label to Succeed

Hey everyone, we’re back with the 2nd installment in our common misconception series and today we’re going to be discussing the topic of Record Labels, and more specifically the thought that you need to have a record label in order to succeed in this industry.

First off, I want to address the fact that record labels can be a very polarizing topic for many musicians.  On one hand, some musicians dream of being signed with a label and see that relationship as their only means to success, while on the other hand, some musicians refuse to ever associate with a record label and believe the whole institution is basically evil!  My opinions about labels fall somewhere in between, but in this post I’ll share with you what my opinions and personal experiences are, and I’ll also explain why it’s absolutely NOT true that you need to sign with a record label in order to have success in the modern music industry.

I’ve personally never signed, nor wanted to sign with a record label.  And to be honest, most of the other successful musicians I know haven’t ever signed, and have no interest in signing with a record label either, and they’re all enjoying fantastic careers.  At this point with the type of career I have and what my future goals are, there’s really nothing a label could offer me that would tempt me enough to give up any ownership or creative freedom of my music, not to mention the percentage of my earnings I’d also have to give up.

I certainly can’t speak for everyone though, and there’s no denying the fact that labels still have a lot of power and resources at their disposal, and that for the right artist who has very specific goals, signing with a label might actually really benefit their career.   My goal with this post isn’t to sway your feelings about labels in one direction or another, it’s simply to get you to see how you don’t actually need a label in order to be successful.  Can you become successful by signing with a record label? Of course. But can you be just as successful as an unsigned independent artist? Absolutely!

I understand why this misconception still exists though.  In the old music industry, signing with a record label was actually one of the only paths to success for a musician for a number of reasons we’re not going to cover here, but the landscape is completely different nowadays and continues to change in the favor of independent musicians.  In today’s world, almost anything a label could offer you is probably something you’d be able to accomplish on your own if you really wanted to.

You no longer need a label to record and distribute your music, to attract and build an audience, to tour, or really to do anything else you might want to do as a musician.  There are independent musicians out there who can fill arenas on sold-out world tours, who’ve won Grammy and Billboard awards, who’ve performed on all the popular late night TV shows and who’ve had their music played on the radio.  Again, almost everything that the major label artists can do, independent artists now have the opportunity to do as well.

Sure, it might take an independent artist longer to achieve some of those goals than it would have if they had a lot more resources at their disposal, but the fact remains that it’s possible for independent artists to enjoy just as much success in their careers as the major label artists are enjoying in theirs.  And we’ll save more on this topic for another day but for those of you who, like myself, don’t aspire to mainstream success, global fame or the other accomplishments I mentioned above but instead are just happy to be making a solid living doing something we love, achieving that kind of a goal as an independent musician is even more attainable now than ever before.

I’ve personally known a number of musicians at this point who’ve signed with a record label at one time or another. A few of them seem to be doing pretty well with it, while others really regretted signing and couldn’t wait to get out of their contracts.  It’s impossible to say whether or not my own career would be more or less successful if I had ever decided to sign with a record label, but I can honestly say that I have no regrets about where I’m at and am very happy to remain independent.

One of the things I love most about my career is the freedom and flexibility I have to work on the types of projects I want to and to execute them according to my own vision.  There are certainly pros and cons to this approach, one of the main cons being the lack of resources at my disposal, but it’s worth the tradeoff to me and I still am incredibly happy with where I’m at and feel very grateful for the success I’ve had so far.

The main thing I want you to take away here is that independent artists truly don’t need to sign with a label in order to achieve success.  And the whole mentality of thinking that you need some label (or manager, or agent, or whoever else) to come along and basically bestow success upon you is just plain wrong!  There are SO many paths to success in this industry nowadays, most of which you can follow on your own terms, and I don’t want you to think that you’d ever need to rely on some outside entity to achieve success because so much of these opportunities are within your control to take advantage of.  The mentality of thinking you need someone or something else to succeed can really be used as an excuse and can cripple someone from taking those crucial first steps of getting started.

If I had believed that I needed to sign with a label and had made that my #1 priority vs. the path I followed for building and connecting with an audience  on my own, I know I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.  I didn’t wait around for something like that to “happen” to me, instead I started with the few resources I had available at the time in my parent’s spare bedroom in a suburb of Detroit, and if I was able to make something work from there, I bet you can too.  I want you to feel excited by all of the options you have and to feel empowered to make things happen for your career by yourself!

We’ll be back next week with a new post so be on the lookout for that, and in the meantime if you missed last week’s post about “the overnight success” you can check that out in the blog here! Have an awesome week everyone!

– Taylor