I’ve been mulling over how I was going to approach this subject for quite some time now, as there are some serious pros and cons to signing a record deal. I came from a world where it was mostly internet based promotion, the new age DIY, if you will. I’d post my song up on SoundCloud, hire a small PR team to work my records and then do it all over again once a month. Eventually this process gained me some solid traction and I netted a deal with Nice Life/Atlantic Records.
“When you’re a developing artist with no real social media following or a hit song, it is fairly hard to get the label to trust you with a budget.”
I’d like to start with the cons first so we can end on a positive note. Ultimately there are a handful of “sub” cons that stem from the biggest con: lack of leverage. When you’re a developing artist with no real social media following or hit song, it is fairly hard to get the label to trust you with a budget. Money aside, you have to work twice as hard to get people at the label to trust you creatively. For the most part, labels have seen a certain model work with artists and try to apply it as a “one size fits all” situation. If that doesn’t pan out, well then they really don’t have much else they can do for you. All of this stems back to the fact that when you don’t have proper leverage, you kind of have to go with their flow.
The pros however ultimately outweigh the cons. More or less, the pros are mostly monetary, but there’s definitely more. On the monetary front you get an advance and a recording budget. This makes life a lot easier when you’re working with quality producers and mixers who need to get paid. Also, if you have a good relationship with your team, they usually have a network of people that can really put in work for you when it comes to playlisting on DSPs (Spotify, Apple, etc) or connecting you to pretty much any artist, writer, producer, videographer, agent, synch team, you name it. Now whether or not those people want to work with you is entirely up to them, but just knowing that the network exists is really comforting. Of course, there’s also the fact that they want to see you win. If you have an A&R and team that really believes in you, it can really catalyze certain aspects of your career that otherwise would’ve taken a lot longer to develop.
“Push yourself as far as possible independently so that when you do get signed, the label has a lot more trust in you creatively…”
Ultimately, I’m much happier being a signed artist because A) I can actually make music for a living and B) I know that if I have a song I believe has serious potential, they’ll be able to use their resources to give it the push it needs. The only advice I would give is not to sign too early. Push yourself as far as possible independently so that when you do get signed, the label has a lot more trust in you creatively and is willing to give you a larger budget to work with.