Is it better to be signed to a music label or to stay independent?

sign to a music label or stay independent

Independence seems to be the buzzword in the music industry in these times. The internet and the digital music have opened up opportunities for all artists – aspiring, part-time and seasoned performers you name it.

Nowadays it’s easy to release music and have it readily available for free download or purchase. But like most things in life, there’s always a catch.

Some artists have this misconception that Independency will translate into “success”. See what I did there with the inverted commas? Lol, well the term success is subjective and everyone has a different definition.

But the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Is it better to be signed to a music label or stay Independent? That is the million dollar question (Million Rand question if you’re in South Africa). 

But I’ll try to answer that question by giving you an honest opinion. The keyword here is OPINION, that’s right.

The benefits of being signed to a music label

New artists tend to believe that being signed to a music label means giving up your rights (Intellectual property or music rights in this context).

But that’s not always the case. An artist can sign to XYZ label and retain 100% of their music rights or master recordings.

One of the main advantages of being signed to a label is that they will handle the administrative tasks, marketing, Public Relations and Distribution on your behalf.

There are lucrative music deals that allow artists to be businessman/women, such as the following:

Joint Venture Record Deal

Manufacturing and Distribution

However, a 360 deal, for example, allows the music label to invest their financial resources heavily in the artist but they will get a cut on everything revenue stream and I mean EVERYTHING.

Do you have the stamina to stay Independent?

On paper, Independency looks and sounds good but it is not for everyone, especially long-term – Not every artist is cut out for this.

The easy part like I mentioned earlier is releasing music on the internet on a regular basis. But that’s the easy part.

You need lots and lots of money to stay Independent and to achieve mainstream success which is probably the goal most artists.

When I say Independent, I mean exactly that. I’m not talking about having some licensing deal with a major record label or a production deal with XYZ Indie label. That’s not true Independence.

Being 100% Independent means that you must finance your recordings, mixing, mastering, public relations, but that’s just the tip of the ice berg.

You will probably have to employ your own stuff and pay salaries from your own pocket to achieve your musical goals, and overheads will skyrocket.


Signing a joint venture deal with a music label is not such a bad thing because they take the risk of promoting your music and making sure that it lands in hands of consumers.

How much royalties you’re paid will depend on a number of things and the type of deal you sign. The advantage of signing with a label is that they can speed up your progress as an artist which will allow you to make a living from music much faster.

On the other hand, Independence allows you to retain full ownership of everything and earn bigger margins. But it pays off on a bigger scale only if you have a team and the resources to push your music like the major labels do. If you don’t have budgets for marketing and distribution good records may never take off which may stall your career and the likelihood of losing money is high.

Whether you decide to sign with a music label or stay 100% Independent, the choice is yours. But you must educate yourself and know what you’re getting yourself into. All the best and thank you for reading.   

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