All new artists find themselves one day confronted with an avalanche of steps they need to take, and a music label can help with that. Because yes, producing a record is a monumental challenge on its own, paved with obstacles difficult to deal with alone.
What can music labels help you do? Everything beyond creation, actually—from finding a studio and the right people to help you produce, to distributing your recordings, to communicating around your musical project.
Some set up their own label, others try to join the majors players of the music world—everyone has a different approach. One common point is the need to make a place for oneself in the recording industry, in order to reach the top of the charts.
1. What is a record label?
When it comes to producing records, musicians need resources to reach their target audience. For this, the best launchpad is a label. But what exactly is a label? There are different kinds, but their purpose is the same: to make you successful.
It is a team dedicated to your success. On this team, there are different specialists. There’s a legal structure that will manage everything related to your rights (we’ll talk about that at the end of the article). There is also a communication team, which will, as the name suggests, take care of your business, online and off. There are also project managers, people who will help you manage the different aspects of your project. This is a fairly general position. In general, this will be your main contact.
The professions in the music world are numerous. Within a label, there are also artistic directors. They are the ones who will guide you on the right musical or sound colors to develop.
Singers, techno Djs, and rap artists may have different audiences and directions, they all have one thing in common: the desire to release a first album. This desire can materialize in different ways:
- In self-production
One distributes by oneself, handles one’s own communication, manages one’s own press relations, etc. In short, this is homebrew, carried by the creator.
- Supported by an independent label
An indie label is a small structure not connected to large record companies, giving it more flexibility, but a shorter reach in terms of distribution.
- With a record company
In general, it’s not easy to be spotted by a big record company when you start, but after all, everyone starts somewhere. Their reach is huge. You would be distributed at your favorite record store and all the others. Your project would be available on disc, vinyl, and streaming. Publishers would attempt to place your titles in ads, movies, and other cultural products. In short, you would be at the top of the charts.
| See also: How to send a demo to record labels
2. What are record labels for?
2.1 Music distribution
Making recorded music is just the beginning. Your new album needs to be listened to. To make that happen, you have to distribute it. There are a lot of solutions. The best is when it’s an independent label or a record company that takes care of it for you, because it’s not the easiest thing in the world.
Alternatively, you could decide to upload only to Soundcloud, but the reach won’t be as big. A label will take care of putting it on all streaming platforms like Apple music and others, as well as onthe shelves of the various record stores, if you want.
Even if you decide to stay indie, you can get a distribution-only deal with a label. Digital distributors have their limits, and record companies can help you reach a bigger target audience.
Everyone knows that today, communication is key. You won’t break records without great communication. Obviously, you can do a lot on your own, following our advice for example. But a label will help you make music videos, find the best people to make your record covers, and in short, all the best possible providers so that you have the necessary material to communicate well.
Whether you are at a new label, at any of the independent labels, or a major one, communication is a central point of the project, so usually they have the right communicators in-house.
2.3 Music marketing and promotion
New talents need much more than a beautiful album cover. They need a great music marketing strategy. This is crucial for a launch (and even afterward). Marketing allows you to get to know the market, know your target audience, and develop the strategy that will allow you to reach as many people as possible. At a label, you always have a dedicated team!
2.4 Financing and equipment
Before communication, you need to produce music in the best possible conditions. So yes, you will miss your home studio, but when Sony Music or Warner sends you to the best studios in the country, all at their expense, you will quickly forget the time when you had to record, mix, and master your own music.
2.5 Network and address book of the music label
If you make electronic music or any other type of music, and want it to reach as many people as possible, they will find you partners to talk about it. Who are they? Media, influencers, etc. For that, you have to have some reach, know the world. This is not always the case with musicians just starting out, but record companies and labels exist to know the game.
Whether it’s to find you a place on a festival stage or in the appropriate media, they will be there to help. Before that, however, you can use Groover.
Having a network means having access to the best producers, musical directors, and video directors. In short, it means the opportunity work with the best people possible to help you move forward in your project.
Major record companies like Universal Music Group, for example, are able to find the best ways to generate revenue, which will then allow you to fuel your artistic project. Merchandising is a way to get there, capitalizing on your vibe, your image, to generate numbers.
2.7 Moral support
The music industry can be tough, and not everyone makes it out unscathed. Until a few years ago, the subject of mental health wasn’t on everyone’s mind at record companies, but now every record producer knows that an artist isn’t just there to generate music and collect royalties. A good music label is a label that cares about the well-being of its artists, reducing their mental load as much as possible, so that they can focus on creation.
| See also: 10 tips to get the attention of labels
3. The music contract when you sign to a record label
Let’s talk legal now, the fun part of this article. There are three different types of contracts with a label, it’s good to know them so you know where you’re going. The best advice we can give you, whether you’re in blues, soul, punk, folk, electro, hip-hop, whatever the genre, is to get help from a lawyer or other legal expert. It’s important.
Record companies‘ catalogs are full of music from artists who never researched all the different possibilities available to them, so be informed.
Let’s start with the artist contract. This one can be scary, as many artists have complained about it. The label owns your music. Basically, it produces it, takes care of all the expenses, and takes a large percentage of the profits. In fact, at the time of signing, you are going to negotiate the percentage that you are going to get—we’re talking about 8% on average—these are the royalties. It’s scary, isn’t it? Perhaps, only there is more to it than just the negative. Think of it as the price to pay to be surrounded by a competent team. We don’t all have the resources necessary to make our recorded music the next hit of the year. In the previous point, we listed what a label can do. Well, you have access to all these services when you have an artist contract, so in short, it can be a huge boost.
Then, there’s the distribution contract. We talked about it a little bit above. Staying indie means producing your own music and reaping the rewards. In a distribution contract, you benefit from the label’s distribution network at the cost of about 40% of your profit. After reading this, you may think that this contract is objectively the best option. But ask yourself, do you have the skills to reach the stage that a label and an artist’s contract could offer you? It is not impossible that 8% of royalties could be more profitable than 60% of a distribution deal. It’s up to you.
The last point is the publishing contract. Here, there is no artistic support. The professionals with whom you will work have only one mission: to place your music in any cultural or media product possible, from big-budget films to fashion shows to ads—everywhere. Here, the deal is 50% of the copyright. Please note that copyright applies only to songwriters. If you’re an cover artist, we’re dealing with neighboring rights. Two very complicated concepts, which we took the time to explain in this article.
– Translated by Kole Wright –