Record label

Independent artist vs record label: what is the best route to success?


Nieve ODonnell

The majors regularly receive criticism for being overwhelmingly for-profit and less for musicians. In today’s musical climate, is it better to remain an independent artist than to sign with a major record company?

Raye recently opened up about his label, saying they were preventing him from releasing albums. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift is re-recording her albums to secure ownership of her music. Sports teams Camel crew ridicule the label giant Sony, satirically declaring that they “only know they did it / When they sign the rights to Sony / Where the steps are swept / and the lawn is groomed”.

Depending on an artist’s goals, both can have advantages

The music industry tends to be viewed as having two sides; there is a conspicuous view that independent artists are more genuine and that major labels such as Sony are “sellers”, mainstream and for-profit. However, depending on an artist’s goals, both can have advantages. There are also smaller labels that offer intimate, localized benefits and bridge the gap between being an independent artist and selling your soul to bigger labels.

Some artists began to set up their own labels, using their expertise to help artists they believe in, often successfully producing confident groups and musicians who would not be interested in major labels. Former Maccabees member Felix White founded Yala Records which now hosts artists such as Willie J Healey and The Magic Gang. White is able to support groups and artists in the UK who offer an alternative sound to that of the big labels.

Clue Records of Leeds is an independent DIY label which is the product of founder Scott Lewis

Local labels also have a big role to play in local music scenes, often the cradles of popular music and raging subcultures. Clue Records of Leeds is an independent DIY label which is the product of founder Scott Lewis. The main philosophy of the label is to promote the artists and the music they love; Van Houten, a dreamy indie band on the label, said they wouldn’t be where they are without the label. The local perks of having gigs and networking with other bands are a mass perk of being on any label, especially a tight-knit local label.

However, due to the rise in accessibility of the internet and chamber-pop, many artists have started downloading their music online without the burden of a label, whether major or independent. Rapper No Name, who previously collaborated with Chance the Rapper and Mick Jenkins, released his debut album online in 2016 as a free music download that quickly became popular. No Name is a state-of-the-world critic, discussing gentrification, her experiences as a black woman, and the funding of the American police. It is possible that No Name’s decision to publish ‘Telefone’ online was a conscious push against the industry. This has shown that it is possible for artists to have autonomy and to be entirely separate from any type of record company.

Small labels offer a nice in-between where music is encouraged by people who are passionate about music and not necessarily making a profit

In light of Taylor Swift’s decision to re-record her music, being an independent artist may be an option for artists who aren’t interested in the cliché of growing up or making music for political or personal reasons. However, the smaller labels offer a nice in-between where music is encouraged by people who are passionate about music and not necessarily for the purpose of making a profit. When Raye said she was prevented from releasing previous versions of the albums she wanted to release, it’s hard to see any benefit for the majors. However, they have connections that small record companies and individual artists just don’t have. Nonetheless, the free online release of No Name shows that an artist can still achieve massive success without such restrictive management.

The music industry relies on various labels, producers and forms of music from the bottom up. With so many publishing options today, what’s the best path to success for upcoming artists? It depends on how each artist defines their success, whether it’s musical endeavor, fame, or performing in a room of a certain size.

Being a freelance artist or being signed to a smaller label can be more rewarding musically

The options available, whether it’s an independent artist or a contract with an independent or major record company, are varied and artists can really choose. While being signed to a major record company has a certain seriousness and a specific parameter of success, being an independent artist or being signed to a smaller record company can be more rewarding musically – whether or not an artist defines his or her. success by these parameters is more questionable. .

Nieve ODonnell


Image courtesy of Anastasiauio1478g via Wikimedia. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

Image 1 in the post courtesy of @raye via instagram.com. No changes have been made to this image.

Image 2 of the post courtesy of @cluerecords via instagram.com. No changes have been made to this image.

Image 3 in the post courtesy of @taylorswift via instagram.com. No changes have been made to this image.

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