Each year we try to reach out to the independent artist, band and label as they are really the cornerstone of the music industry. It’s always amazing to see the outpouring of attention this particular issue gets and to be able to acknowledge the work that is done in this arena is very important to all those concerned. In this particular issue all you have to do is look at the music charts to see how many indie artists and bands have found a safe-haven here at New Music Weekly. We applaud their efforts and can only marvel on how hard so many of these artists and bands work to achieve what they have done so far.
With the ever changing music industry, it appears that going the independent route might just be the best move out there. The deals that the major labels are now making in order to get their investment back finds them getting their hands on just about everything an artist can possibly make. From publishing interests, to bookings and other elements not generally found in early record deal agreements, the major labels almost want and require so much more and the deals may even include getting your first born.
Major labels will use the excuse that they need all of these things from newer artists in order to get their “fair share” of the pie. In many cases it’s more of an issue of greed than anything else. The only way to deal with the major labels is through a position of strength. Artists that go directly to radio to try and prove their case are the ones that find better success and stronger deals. A major label is not going to mess with an artist that is already breaking with a hit single on radio. Ryan Macklemore of Ryan & Lewis proved that case all too well. He held out until the picture was so strong at radio that he could call his own shots and negotiated a deal that was good for both artist and label via his own terms.
The position of strength is a very big item when dealing with the major labels. As an artist or band with a vision of what you are all about, the last thing you want is some A&R guy telling you how to write and produce your own music. Some of these executives have personal deals regarding publishing and shares with certain writers and will push extremely hard for new artists and bands to use such material. Their pitch is that young artists and bands have no writing skills and should use provided materials only approved by the A&R person assigned to the project. This can become an artist’s worst nightmare.
Many believe that being signed is the answer to their problems when in many cases it might just be the beginning of the end for some. Major labels have only so many artists that they can fit into the “priority” list. Nobody but the executives know the real positon of the pecking order. We know first-hand of artists signed to labels that were actually sabotaged by their own label in order for them to pay special attention to others they deemed far more important. As an independent artist or label you would never do that as you alone are the priority. That is why you must deal with them from that positon of strength so they are put on notice that there will be no opportunity to pull any stunts.
Too many young artists think they will be discovered by doing a showcase and end up spending the little money they have to put on such events. There are very few scouts (if any) during this time in the record industry. It is literally impossible to get a meeting with a major label these days and often requires an Act of Congress. What the major labels are doing today is looking at music charts from New Music Weekly to Mediabase and finding artists that are already “on the move” with a single getting radio spins. The stronger the single builds the better chance you have of getting a deal that is more on your terms. You need to be patient and wait your turn if that’s the path you seek. A better alternative is to stay independent and own and control your own product. When the Eagles released their last album they realized that a major would only take funds that should go to the band. With digital downloads being the name of the game, the pie has been made much smaller and it’s getting harder & harder to divide the pieces.