Indie Label Vs. Major Label Vs. Independent Artist

One of the most frequently asked question by artists is: “What’s the best type of label for my career?”.  A highly debated topic; major, indie and independents are all valuable depending what you’re looking for.  Let’s weigh the options:
Indie Label:
An independent label or “indie” label is a privately owned label that is not part of the four major labels.  Indie Labels are a great way to start getting your music distributed and grow a loyal fan base.  Because indie labels are smaller entities they are often more willing to make deals where they take less profit from your earning.  However, they also will give you less money to make your record than a major label but are generally more interested in signing unique and unusual artists.  What they gain in niche appeal they lack in larger distributing and marketing strategies and often press and distribute in smaller, more regional zones.  Some labels offer a pressing and distributing deal through a major label to get your record in more stores.  Indie labels are a great stepping stone for hard working artists looking to cut a good record and get their music heard and boost their fan base.  As a smaller band that may not be making much money off of record sales, you want a deal with a label that gives you the highest percentage of royalties from your sales as possible.  Many artists have started with an indie label before cutting a deal with a major label although it is not necessary.
Major Label:
The 4 Major labels are: Warner Music Group, EMI, Sony Music, and Universal Music Group. Major labels often seek artists that have a large and thriving fan base, or a new act that they believe could be very successful.  With a major label deal comes a long list of contacts that take care of a number of things for you.  A major label will take care of your marketing, publishing, distribution, sales, advertising, legal, shipping and merchandising.  Because they offer these services they often take a larger cut of the profits however they are usually willing to give you a larger sum of money to record your album.  Negotiating a deal with a major label is often quite complicated because of the many services offered so be sure to seek professional advice before you sign your name to a record deal.  Major labels often have smaller subsidiary labels that differ in genre and release albums under different names, but all are under the same umbrella of the major label.  With the help of your team, a major label can skyrocket your success and get your music heard all over the world.
Independent Artist:
An independent artist is one who has not signed a record deal with any label.  Whether they record tracks on their own sources of funding, they run their own label or are still seeking to cut a deal; a lot of artists choose to be independent to retain as much creative control as possible.  As an independent artist you have to do virtually everything yourself, or find a team to help you yourself that believe in your music and are willing to work for you.  From your management, legal and marketing to finding a studio to record at, the ball is in your court.  Some artists choose to start their own label, but usually after a level of success in the industry and after they’ve acquired contacts that can help them run a label.  Being an independent artist gives you the most amount of freedom with your music as you make your own deals, however it also requires the most work.
You have to do your research and really look out for what fits you, your music and what’s important to you.  If you’re looking for the most creative control in all aspects of your music, independent is for you.  If you want to break into a particular scene and get your music heard check out some indie labels.  If you’re looking for mainstream and international success see what the major labels have to offer.
Posted in: Artist Advice, Artist Consulting.