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  • Writer's pictureBen Byre

Sign A Record Deal Or Stay As An Independent Artist?

Artist at live show
Should I sign a record deal?

In today's music industry, it's becoming much less complicated to release music and develop a steady music career without the support of a major record label. With the current climate of the music industry, there are more independent artists than ever making it into the mainstream without signing a record deal with a major label.

There are countless methods an indie artist could learn and undertake in order to make their music become a viral hit, and these are all to do with how one distributes the music, their online marketing strategy, and knowing where and how to promote their music.

However, staying independent and navigating all these crucial factors can be somewhat strenuous without a clear plan, and given this, it begs the questions, does one need to be signed to a label to go big? What are the differences between the two? Whilst this post cannot give a definitive answer, it will give you some in depth information that will help clear up the highly debated topic. If you’re interested, read on!

What are the benefits of signing with independent record labels?

So, you’ve just signed your first record deal. Congratulations! But, what’s next? There are plenty of benefits to signing a deal.


As you could guess, signing to a big label is likely to get you more exposure because it's an established one and has a bigger budget and global reach. As an independent artist, of course, you can also grab attention, but with independent record labels, are more likely to focus on a more niche target audience. For example, if you are a alternative music artist signed with Universal Music, you are much more likely to reach your specific target audience of people who tend not to deviate away from listening to alternative music. Thus, you would build your brand faster and earn more from your music.

Live show band
Independent or signed?


As any artist will know, releasing and promoting a song/album is extremely costly. Most don’t have that sort of money just lying around, however, this is why being signed with independent record label is a huge advantage. The label covers all costs of recording and releasing. This includes aspects like studio time, promotion of the song, and the overall PR costs. There is also a payment known as an advance payment which is when you initially sign a contract with the label. This is an upfront payment agreed between the parties, and it differs from artist to artist.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Signing With A Independent Record Label?

It is worth pointing out that this blog is an informative guide to the world of record labels within the music industry. In no way are we trying to influence any decision, just providing the necessary information that every artist should know. With that, there are some disadvantages that come with signing a deal.

Decreased Creative Freedom:

The vast majority of artists express their personality and message through their music. Of course, there will always be certain people that are just working to make money, however, most will all have one thing in common, a passion for making music. When you sign with a record label, they each have a department devoted to nurturing and shaping any artists to be 'sellable'. Thus, lessening your say in how you want to represent yourself through your music.

Smaller Income Percentage:

In most major record deals, the artist receives about 20% of the proceeds, with the remaining 80% going to the label. However, these deals usually include the aforementioned upfront payment, and of course a lot of publicity, so it's not all bad!

Live Show
Making it in the music industry

Now, What Are The Benefits Of Being An Independent Artist?

Thankfully, in today’s music industry, there are countless ways that any artist that isn’t signed with any label can make it big just through the plethora of different resources that are easy to access online. There are plenty of benefits to being an independent artist and success is in hand.

All The Creative Control:

Independent artists have full control over where they want to release their music and who they release it to in terms of target audience. They also have full authority over sales, marketing strategy, artwork, messaging, deadlines, and more. Additionally, independent artists have free will to make decisions about their creative vision. For many artists, this is the successful ideal scenario. There are different kind of artists who can't run their career by themselves, having a label helps them get their career up and running.

Access To Free Platforms:

The digital age brings with it numerous music services and tools for independent artists. Musicians can access music distribution, marketing, and streaming platforms for free! The internet also makes it easier for musicians to reach new audiences. They can now get their music posted in digital music stores, music platforms and streaming services without a record deal, and with out having to pay too much for it. More specifically, social media platforms have now made it possible for independent artists get heard and release quick, easy, and cost-efficient marketing content.

Guitar player
DIY artists

Artists Keep The Profits:

Whilst it may be fairly obvious, not being signed with a label reaps it rewards in a monetary sense. You as an independent artists will keep rights to your music and maintain 100% of the profits from music sales, streams, license agreements, products, and other income sources.

What Are The Consequences Of Being An Independent Artist?

Some of the negative aspects of releasing your own music might be fairly obvious, however it is still vital information that any artist should know.

A Limit On Resources:

Gaining funds, marketing, distribution, merchandise, tours, and other expenses are extortionate for the majority of independent artists. Most don't have the resources and funding that a record label can provide.

Limited Knowledge Of The Industry:

Learning the basics of the music business is difficult. Learning all aspects of the music business takes time and experience. There are many things to manage, such as changing trends, laws of music, etc. It's a complicated world! Understanding what works and what doesn't can also be a costly lesson.

Making it in the music industry

Extremely Time-Consuming:

The road to becoming an independent artist takes time. Self-releasing your own music can seem like a full-time job. Setting up distribution, creating assets, developing marketing strategies, tracking sales, booking shows, and everything else associated with releasing music takes a lot of time. All that extra work takes up valuable studio time as well, almost engulfing you in work constantly.


It is impossible for anyone else to decide which route you wish to go down within the music industry. This informative guide is here to provide you with all the relevant information that will help you come to a more certain decision.

Artists who feel they want to keep the grasp rights, preserve 100% of the profits, have whole innovative control, and are experienced within the music business the lifestyle of an independent artist would probably suit you more. A crucial element to keeping hold of your independent status is having a substantial online presence. Check out another one of our blogs to find out how to promote your music online.

Artists who prefer extra freedom to perfect their songs, do not think fewer profits is a big deal, and need extra publicity would most likely benefit from signing with a record label. To find out the best way to submit your work to record labels, check out this blog.

Regardless of what you choose, the common denominator in each scenario is hard work, perseverance, and dedication. Without these 3 fundamental traits, your work is not likely to go far.

Good luck with your music career!

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1 Comment

Indie Radio Network
Indie Radio Network
Dec 13, 2022

You also have to be careful because record deals done today even through Universal isn't done the same way as 30 years ago.

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