If you are an artist, you probably know this already but, being under the leadership of a label, independent or not, allows you to boost your musical career, and generally speaking, to equip yourself with valuable advisers to bring your music to life. Today, we are sharing some ideas about labels, maximizing your chances of joining one and understanding what a label is actually useful for.
Though many create music, it has never been an easy job. Among all these passionate musicians who have succeeded in building this “complex puzzle of words and thoughts” with rhythms and sounds, some – most, have managed to keep a cool head – have unfortunately drowned in the infinite ocean that is the music industry. There are many reasons as to why this is, but the main one is probably the fact that they did not know how to surround themselves with the right people. Finding structure, a team – label, editor, manager – is essential to stay on the right path.
The music industry, now more than ever, is a unique artistic enterprise. It is a business, a hub of different skills that brings together many types of virtuosos; whether it be legal, economic, promotional, etc. Aware of this reality, you must therefore form alliances with professionals within the music industry. This will allow you to find your way around and flourish in your musical project. These are great assets that labels, these specialized structures specialized in the above areas, can provide for you.
1. How to find and join a label that complements your music?
Despite the negative tone of this introduction, signing onto a label is quite feasible. The first reason being, more and more independent labels are rising to the competition worldwide. Therefore, the first step is to become familiar with the universe of ‘labels’ and all its components, with the idea of reaching out to people who may be drawn to your musical productions – just like the media is guided by their editorial line. All this preparation, this search for the right representatives, is therefore the essential starting point for everything that will happen afterwards. There is no standard procedure to follow to achieve this, but remember that, accredited on every song is the name of the person who produced it – basically, a possible future contact. Luckily, here on Groover, we’ve brought together over a hundred labels who are ready to listen to new music and new talent. They only ask to receive your songs / musical projects, of course, according to their preferred style (s). So send them an email and break the ice!
Now that you know who to show your music to, let’s take a look at what need to show them. It goes without saying that you absolutely must have samples of your work – why not invite them to check out your social media accounts, your SoundCloud page, YouTube, Spotify and any other platforms where your music is held. And for musicians looking to gain new followers, you can read our article dedicated to Instagram 👈
The concept is almost the same as getting in touch with journalists, minus the press kit: you have to create an interest from the record company or label towards you and your profile. A good way to arouse the interest of labels and show your potential is obviously to develop your fan base and generate a lot of streams on Spotify.
Be in constant contact with your representative and send them your new songs; the goal of this maneuver is to seduce into keeping an eye on your evolution, until it offers to produce you. The rest is a question of contracts; we will come back to that. Don’t be in a hurry, and be smart. Any refusal should not undermine your morale. If someone is not up for the challenge and willing to go on the adventure with you, someone else might be up for it. Again, it’s all about artistic sensitivity. What will make you stick out in the crowd is your choice of company and who you surround yourself with.
2. What a label can do for you
Let’s assume that you’ve done it, a label wants to sign you. They can offer you several types of help and assistance – depending on their means. These “means” can be, should be, financial. In other words, they will pay for studio sessions, sound engineers or any other additional people involved in your music; this is called the production process. They could also, finance anything that has to do with your image, from making a music video to a professional photoshoot. A label will protect you and also find new ways for you to earn money, this is where its legal character appears. By this we are referring to your rights as an artist; such as intellectual property and copyright. Obviously, this would all move forward with a legal team and with your written consent. Keep this in mind for your future negotiations: you, the artist, are the essential part for a functioning machine.
| Check out : Music rights and how do they work?
Moreover, your label will help you with all of the promotion necessary of your music. Again, the possibilities are scattered and fluctuate (or accumulate) between, hiring a press secretary, call a journalist to write your bio, canvass the media or any other channels to do publicity… The means are numerous, and are constantly growing – publicity campaigns, concerts or any live performances, merchandising, etc? Your label will take care of this! The physical and online distribution of your music? They will always be the ones who can take care of it – whatever their status, independent or not, renowned or not. In any case, do not be afraid: you will have the last word, with varying degrees of flexibility. It all depends on the type of contracts you signed at the start of your collaboration.
3. Artist and licensing contracts
Here we will discuss three main types of contracts that you will be able to find. First, the most popular, the “artist” contract – or “exclusive recording” contract. Here, the label will put its hand in its pockets for everything related to the costs of recording, publishing and distributing your music. Also, they will manage everything related to marketing and promotion. They will also be able to accompany you in the creation of your music via an artistic director.
Regarding your remuneration, it will be based on your working time (that is to say the time you spend composing), and on a percentage of the total income you will have generated thanks to your music – like your record sales. This is called “royalties”, and the percentage varies depending on the artist’s fame, or, depending on the initial negotiation. Often an artist earns between 5 and 20%. In this artist contract, you will also stipulate the duration that binds you to your producer (usually 2 or 3 years), as well as the number of musical projects (albums, EP, etc.) that you owe them – who, in most cases is not more than 2.
The advantage here is simply that you don’t have to pay anything on your own for your music upfront: from recording to distribution, the whole process is taken care of. The downside is that you will receive a small amount compared to the total likely profits, and that you will not own your recordings (also called “masters”).
Now, the license agreement, arguably the most important one nowadays, involves self-production. It deals with everything related to the sale of your music. To access the latter, there are two cases. The first: you sign an artist contract where the entirety of this service will be paid for by the label with which you are signed to. The second: you are self-produced, and therefore, you have a finished record which you own entirely.
In this second hypothesis, your record company will no longer have a role of a producer but, that of a publisher. It will then exclusively invest in promotion, communication and marketing. It is important to stress here, that after the ratification of this contract, you grant your record company, for a fixed period, the possibility of reproducing, manufacturing and communicating your recordings – you, in effect, grant it a license. The usefulness of this approach is to maximize the sales of your music by distributing it massively, on all media, thanks to the contacts and expertise of your label. On the other hand, if this does not work, the losses will be substantial, since you will have already financed the entire creation process with your own money.
| Check out this article on the ICON Collective Blog: Being an independent artist vs signing to a record label
4. The distribution contract
As the name suggests, this contract binds the publisher and / or producer to the distributor. It will therefore allow you to call on specialists, whose mission will be to make your music accessible, whether physically (via independent record stores, department stores, etc.), or digitally (Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play and other music services). Here again, the distributor buys a finished product, ready to be marketed. To get paid, they will take a percentage on the wholesale price (of your music). If you have an artist contract, this process is included in the contract; the same goes for license agreements.
Finally, if you have self-produced music and therefore have managed the artistic and commercial aspects of your project, this last contract is for you. It will allow you to make your music accessible and you will reap almost all of the benefits from it, without paying anything back to your record label. This business is very complicated and is mainly reserved for well known composers established in the community. However, even more so than the license agreement, if things do not go well, you will lose big time!
In summary, and given the times we are living in, when creation is no longer reserved for an elite and where you can produce at low cost, the license agreement seems the most suitable. However, to get started and build a solid base with a label that inspires you with confidence, we recommend the artist contract. You may earn less, but you can focus almost exclusively on making music – still pay close attention to the length of your contract and commitment.
5. Some examples of the best independent labels
The artistic line of the Cracki Records label is varied. They are driven by heart and aim to offer a wide range of eclectic and quality music. Therefore, they consider themselves a laboratory but also a springboard: “the support and development of young emerging artists is our leitmotif.”
Styles of music : electropop, indie pop, indie rock, new-disco, pop soul, psychedelic pop, synthpop, synthwave.
Artists signed to Cracki Records : Agar Agar, Saint DX, Alma Elste, GENTS, Lucien & The Kimono Orchestra, Mangabey, Yen Yen, Antonin Appaix et bien d’autres…
Mind / Din Records is an independent music label based in Paris and Le Havre.
Styles of music : hip hop, rap, trap, r&b, etc.
Artistes signed to Mind : Médine, Brav, Tiers, Daryl, Oumar, Pirate 182.
A passionate team, defending a record and publishing company that provides artists with everything they need for their career. Their team is made up of a label director, a communications manager, a booker and a marketing manager.
Styles of music : all styles.
Artists signed to Colligence Records : Dimanche, Sacre, Söra, Poppy Moukoukenoff, Theophane, MAB, Babysolo33.
Chinese Man Records
Independent music label started in 2004.
Styles of music: funk, hip hop, latin music, soul, rap, r&b.
Artists signed to Chinese Man Records : Chinese Man (High Ku, Sly, Zé Mateo), Taiwan MC, Scratch Bandits Crew, Deluxe, Baja Frequencia, Youthstar, Rumble, LeYan, Skoob le Roi, Tomapam…
French and French-speaking underground pop network, publishing compilations since 2014. La Souterraine is a French association created by Benjamin Caschera and Laurent Bajon. The creators of the company defines themselves as a “French musical underground observation laboratory”. The association also carries out the activity of a label by publishing compilations and artist albums that have little to no previous distribution. In January 2019, La Souterraine hosted 700 artists (190 compilations, 2,000 songs) on its Bandcamp platform and claimed 50,000 unique users.
Styles of music : all styles.
Jeune à Jamais
Jeune à Jamais is developing an urban musical catalog with a unique aesthetic. Label, publisher, talent scout and musical supervisor, Jeune à Jamais dreams of being the reflection of a generation. JAJ is a structure attached to the publishing house Alter K.
Styles of music : urban.
Artists signed to Jeune à Jamais : Andie Luidje, Jo Le Pheno, Marty de Lutece, Nodey, Pehoz, Roseboy666, Sali, Ucyll & Ryo, Wit., Zuukou Mayzie.
A label and playlists full of good vibes.
Styles of music : disco, electro, french house, new-disco.
– Translated by Betty Gonzalez Gray –
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