Major Record Label Fever – Run For Your Life

Regardless of where any of us actually work as guitarists, there usually comes a time when many of us dream of wearing the major label tour coat (perhaps one with a pretty rainbow on it). Yes, many of us dream of making millions and millions of dollars, driving fast cars, and touring the world with adoring fans screaming and scrambling just to get a glimpse of us. For most, these dreams come with the territory. It’s only natural. Further, for some of us, those dreams, sometimes, turn into reality.

For the past few years the music industry has experienced several changes. This transition has occurred as result of several factors. In short, the major labels are no longer the only game in town.

Years ago, artists began to become disillusioned with the politics of the major labels. After all, the majors (back when; the 70’s 80’s & most of the 90’s) were viewed by most, as the all-mighty. They were generally thought of, by many artists, as the answer to everything and thus, the major labels dictated the way everything happened in the music industry. From song publishing, recording, and promotion, distribution, and licensing (and much more), the major record labels controlled almost every aspect of the music industry. It was either their way, or the highway. Sadly, many artists bought into this philosophy. Especially those who were new to the music scene. Some artists were successful while others literally stood in the background waiting for the major label to promote them. The superstars always received the big budgets for recording, promotion and distribution. The newcomers were forced to play in smaller clubs in order to survive.

Indie labels (independent record labels) started to emerge (80’s and 90’s) simply because artists eventually tired of constantly attempting to jump through the political and contractual hoops required by the major labels (and yes, many other reasons). The general music population, once again, stood up and did something about their particular circumstances. Frankly, we should be glad they did. Because of that revolution, artists new to the music scene now have a chance to have their music heard. That is, if they’re quick enough, good enough, and educated enough.

We all remember the old congressional scandal (years ago) pertaining to the $35,000.00 hammer that was sold to the military and our tax dollars paid for it? Who can forget the million dollar budget that Congress allowed to a company so that they could discover how fast Ketchup came out of a bottle? We’re getting close to how the major label operates folks.

Just think, for only Five Hundred Thousand (or thereabouts) Dollars, almost anyone can make an album at one of the major labels (presuming one actually jumps through the hoops) and even wear their beautiful tour coat. Just remember though, all of this money is owed back to the label! Their personnel doesn’t work for free. Then there’s promotion, advertising, and let’s not forget the staff CPA who sits on the third floor of the label’s corporate office, keeping track of every single dime that the label spends (inflates).

In reality, for approximately $50,000.00 (or less), the right talent, producers, arrangers, engineers, promotion, and other essential personnel, anyone (with talent) can create a musical project that will rival anything that a major label can produce. Now, the major (or minor depending on the point of view) labels don’t want us to know this. Why? Because they lose money every time a talented artist chooses to remain independent and actually becomes successful.

Probably some readers are thinking that this particular proposition is impossible. However, it’s not impossible. In fact, it’s done daily throughout the world. Smart people find ways. Independent is a wonderful word. It means self-governing.

If something needs to be done, in most cases, it’s best to do it ourselves. Waiting for someone to come along and do it for us (especially in the music industry) is a policy that is long gone. If we wait, it’s not likely to happen. There is absolutely nothing that a major label can do for us that we can’t do for ourselves. Yes, money is an issue. However, presuming that sufficient knowledge, finances, and personnel are all in place, independence in music is very achievable.

The starting point for everyone is to LEARN the industry. Learn about publishing, licensing, copyright, manufacturing, radio air-play, sales, promotion, etc. How can one ever hope to progress and succeed in the music industry if the realities and legalities are unknown? In short, a seamless defense is the best offense!

Own everything! Copyrights, patents, songwriting, publishing rights, art work, your own production corporation, record label, etc. Own it all, lock, stock and barrel. In the end, you’ll be so glad that you did. This is not for everyone though. Only those with a superb business savvy can play at this level.

As one can see, it’s not enough to be a great guitar player, musician, writer, etc. It takes a lot more. A whole lot more.

The next time any of us decide to drop $50,000.00 on a fancy car, remember this article. That same $50,000.00 could very well put us on the charts. If it doesn’t, then all of us had better be prepared to do it all over again and again and again. This is the way it works. Quitting is not an option! Besides, quitting is the absolute surest and fastest way to fail.

Here’s something to think about. If one doesn’t have belief, faith and confidence in him/herself as a guitar player, composer, or artist, then why should anyone else; including a major record label?