July 10, 2020

Should Independent Artists Sign With Major Record Labels?

should an independent artist sign with a major label
Image Credit: Open Mic UK (WMG, Universal Music, Sony Music)

A few days ago I was surfing the nett looking for new music. So I headed over to Traxsource.com and decided to check out the local stuff (South Africa).

I started by checking out the Amapiano sensation duo, MFR Souls but I noticed they didn’t have any new releases.

But what was interesting is that their music catalogue dates back to 2015. But most people (The general public) only got to know of them (in 2019) after the release of the smash single, Loving You Tonight, featuring DJ Maphorisa, Shasha and the self-proclaimed piano king Kabza de small.

Should Independent artists sign with major record labels? That is the million-dollar question. But we will find out soon.

Before we proceed any further, let us try to answer the following question….

What is a major record label?

A major record label is a global music company with the resources and infrastructure to handle multiple projects and releases for other labels and artists. That’s my definition of a major record label. There is a reason why they are called majors in the first place.

Some artists (and labels) have a love and hate relationship with the majors; however, that is a topic for another day.

But I would like to point out that major labels add a lot of value for independent labels and artists.

When you should sign or partner with a major label

Using MFR Souls as an example, they released their first project on Traxsource.com in 2015 as previously mentioned.

But the release was handled by Deep Resolute Pty (Ltd). Deep Resolute is an Independent label based in Katlehong and is spearheaded by music producer, Thulane Da Producer.

But when the duo teamed up with House Afrika Records in 2017, that’s when people (especially the house heads at large) started taking notice.  

House Afrika Records is a well-known and respected within the house fraternity. They are a recognizable brand.

However House Afrika is not a major label instead, they have a joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment Africa (Major record label).

When MFR Souls released the hit single, loving you tonight, but the song was marketed and distributed by South African Recordings.

South African Recordings is a subsidiary of Sony Music Africa, headed by Dave Phillips. South African Recordings is also home to the big names such as Mlindo the Vocalist, Blaq Boy Music (DJ Maphorisa’s label) and kwesta just to name a few.

If MFR Souls had chosen to remain Independent, they would probably still continue to produce good music for the underground and house music heads. But I doubt they would be where they are now. Because without the marketing and distribution clout of Sony and South African Recordings most people wouldn’t know them.

My question to you is…….

Do you want to sign with a major?

Don’t forget there’s nothing for nothing, everything comes at an opportunity cost. When you sign with a major label (any label for that matter), you have to give up something in order to get something.

If your primary goal is to make a living from music, then signing with a major label is not a bad idea. But you shouldn’t sell your soul or be desperate to just to sign with anyone.

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to make a living as an Independent artist though, but it often takes a long time to do so (if ever). And you also need the financial resources and other people to meet you halfway in this journey. Working hard is not enough.

But if making music is just a hobby for you, there is no need to sign a deal with anyone. You can keep on making music without the pressure to release anything.    

Final Thoughts

Going back to the main question: Should Independent artists sign with major record labels?

Based on what you read, do you think it’s a good idea?

That’s a question that only YOU can answer for yourself.  Do what is best for YOU.