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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Bloore

The Perks of Being an Independent Artist 

As a struggling artist, signing a record deal is often the dream. But what are the advantages of remaining independent?

 Being an independent, unsigned musician has many benefits, including creative direction, financial control, artistic freedom and full copyright ownership of your work. While working as an independent artist can present challenges such as limited resources and marketing support, the trade-off lies in the benefits of maintaining your own creative control and freedom.

Why have top artists in the music industry become independent? 

In recent years, many artists have stepped away from deals with major labels to pursue a music career as independent musicians. Signing a record deal with a major label can come with complications; indie artists can be dropped from labels, they may in fact lose money, and most importantly, they often do not own their work. 

The injustices of the record deal system were revealed in a scandal in 2019 when Taylor Swift's master recordings were sold by her label Big Red Machine to manager Scooter Braun without her consent. Whilst the deal was described as a ‘worst case scenario’ by Swift, she had absolutely no say in the matter. In recent years, we have seen Swift and other top artists split from major record labels to become independent artists, often forming their own record label. Examples include Frank Ocean, Phoebe Bridgers and 6 time BRIT award winner RAYE. These major artists show us that staying independent has its perks - you can be successful without signing that deal. 

Taylor swift album
Independent artists vs Signed artist

What are the benefits of signing with a record label?

While there are plenty of benefits to moving forward as an independent musician and putting your own music out, signing a record deal definitely has its perks. Record labels play a huge part in expanding your horizons as an artist. The idea of having professional guidance can be an extremely comforting thought for a lot of musicians, which may be a large reason signing with record labels is so highly sought after in the music industry.

Signing with a record label can give an artist more outlets for music distribution to digital music stores, build their brand (or "who you are" as an artist), and can provide support financially when it comes to actually recording music.

record albums
Releasing an album or a single, which one is better?

The fact remains true however, that working at a record label can restrict an artist's creative control, and many of the perks of signing with a record label are not exactly unobtainable as an independent artist.

What are the benefits for independent artists? 

Even if you are a small indie artist, being independent can still have its advantages.  It can be difficult for independent artists to be responsible for themselves in terms of recording, finances, and marketing, however, you do not need to be signed to a major record label to have a full team; you can still have managers, publicists, assistants, and as much help as you require, while retaining your creative control. Indie artists can also work with a digital music distributor and collect royalties directly.

The power of having control over your music and general aesthetic can be the driving force behind an artist's decision to pursue music from an independent standpoint. Full autonomy over one's musical works can be extremely important for an artist's expression.

Things you can have control over as an independent artist:

  • Creative freedom: direct your own music videos, photo shoots, and cover art, and curate your social media to match your desired aesthetic. The freedom to design yourself as an artist and create your own brand can prove extremely beneficial when you are starting out as an independent musician.

  • Scheduling: you decide your own schedule for release music dates, which can take pressure off and ensure your music is the best it can be. It can be stressful to have set deadlines for the release of your music, and having the freedom to record and re-record as needed can allow you to truly take the time to put the effort you wish to put into your music.

  • Budgeting: you understand firsthand, as the performer, where it is best to invest money. Being able to structure your finances around what works best for you is important: not every musician looks to invest in the same areas.

  • Stability: there is less pressure to guarantee profit, as you are not worried about being dropped by a label. In taking the time to perfect your music, it will feel more genuine and authentic.

  • Copyright ownership: you will own the performance, composition and mechanical royalties of your songs. When presenting yourself as a musician, you may be able to keep a larger percentage of royalties on the music you release.

Tips for distributing and promoting your music without a record label

If you are small independent artist with limited resources and no funds for a team, there are still resources available to effectively distribute and promote your music. Platforms like DistroKid, Ditto and TuneCore allow you to upload your music to streaming services, own the copyright and collect your fair share of the royalties. If you are an independent artist, you also have more flexibility in choosing how you promote your music. Posting on social media is one of the best ways to push your campaign, but there are also other platforms available which can help your music reach a wider audience.

Promotional sites such as One Submit, Musosoup, Submit Hub and Groover allow you to submit your music to hundreds of creators across Spotify playlists, YouTube channels, blogs and radio stations. Sites like these suit independent artists, because of the value for money; One Submit in particular guarantees a review from every curator, or you get your money back. These promotion services make budgeting easier: you know exactly how much money from your own finances is going into PR, and you yourself can choose which sites and platforms to submit your music through. 

Going forward as an independent artist

music producer
Producing your own music independently

In the future, we may see more and more artists becoming independent to navigate the music business. Even if you are an artist still striving for a deal, try to make the most of being an unsigned musician in the meantime. There are many perks to using the time you have as an independent artist, like building your brand, and gaining perspective regarding finances and marketing.

Being independent will give you time to experiment with your music, artist brand and aesthetic whilst maintaining complete artistic and financial control. Creating a strong aesthetic and musical personality when recording or releasing your own music can prove to be beneficial after you sign with a record label. The same goes for organizing your own finances when recording and making sure you have a wide range of marketing strategies. When the time comes to sign to a label, you may have more authority and legal leverage if you have experience managing your finances, schedule and promotional campaigns.

Which is the better route; signing with a record label or moving forward as an independent artist?

Both signing with a record label and remaining an independent artist offer pathways to success in the music industry. Joining a record label can streamline access to resources, facilitating greater visibility and support, which can make success feel more easily attainable. However, achieving success independently is entirely feasible, with different challenges and opportunities. Pursuing success as an independent artist allows an artist to truly express their musical content, and have control over their work entirely.

Ultimately, the optimal choice depends on individual circumstances and preferences, as what works for one artist may not necessarily work for another. It is truly a matter of personal experience. Aspiring musicians should take time and carefully weigh their options, considering factors like creative control, financial independence, and personal goals, to determine the path that aligns best with their vision and aspirations in the music industry.

Record album
Being independent artist

Useful tips for artists: How to submit music to blogs Visit our music promotion page Check out the best music promotion services available today


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