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What are the pros and cons of being an independent musician?

I want to be an independent musician and have my own label (unless a really big label wants to sign me so I can get richer) and yeah!

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Subject: Career question for you

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Adam’s Answer

Your question is:
"I want to be an independent musician and have my own label (unless a really big label wants to sign me so I can get richer) and yeah!"

Great question! Or more like a statement :)

For the first part of the question--- "I want to be an independent musician and have my own label " ---it's important to remember that music, like all careers, is all about the long game. Big picture. Relationships. And continual learning. Doing everything yourself as an independent musician/label owner certainly gives you the ability to make your own choices as an artist. Don't forget, it also means doing everything yourself. Creating the music, recording, mixing, mastering, distributing (upkeep with all streaming platforms -Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer, etc), registering your songs(BMI, ASCAP, SEASAC), finding a publishing partner to collect mechanical royalties( Songtrust, CD Baby, Tune Core, etc),booking(for live shows) funding (that is paying for all the equipment, promotion, travel, etc) and the lists goes on.

So don't forget, being a completely independent artist include lots of moving parts and wearing many hats (having many different responsibilities) not just being adored my fans.

For the second part of the question --- " (unless a really big label wants to sign me so I can get richer) and yeah!"--- I think there is a lot to unpack.

Let's start with the first part "unless a really big label wants to sign me ". There are a number of reasons a label would want to sign an artist, most revolve around how much money they can make from that artist. If you had a post go viral on TikTok, followed by several more and have millions of followers, a label might want to exploit that for their ability to make money from it. Or if you have a really loyal following, millions of streams of multiple songs on multiple platforms, a really robust and active social media presence, then you might get a meeting with a label. But it is almost never the case that someone is "discovered" .

Now let's look at the last part- "so I can get richer) and yeah!" I think this is perhaps the most relatable for almost everyone. If getting rich or richer is your goal I would urge a career path that makes that a bit more likely. Entrepreneurship? Hedge fund manager? Being a musician, or any kind of artist, demands much sacrifice with very little garuntee of financial gain or even stability.

If being an indie artist is something that you feel drawn to like a moth to a flame, and you feel like nothing could stop you from achieving that goal, then it is important to clarify a few things about yourself as an artist.

Who am I?
What makes me different or separates me from other artist?
Do people like my music when I play it for them?
Am I willing to put in the work to achieve my goals?
What is my superpower as a musician? Or what do i do better than anyone else?

Music can be the most joyous hobby anyone could ever hope for. It is wonderful to be shoving joy for others to feel as well. But if you want to be a full time musician. Buckle up. Its a bumpy ride. And get ready to do the work. And don;t forget to have some fun along the way.


Adam recommends the following next steps:

This is a great site for music advice : https://aristake.com/
Here is a great podcast to listen to: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6Yo9mYKQ446gUKV9KqUWMI?si=2ae2775363c04803
Thank you comment icon Thank you for this response, It's definitely got me thinking! Have a nice day! Claudia
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Kevin’s Answer

Being an independent musician that owns their own record label can be extremely rewarding. The biggest overall advantage is that you will have complete freedom to make all decisions about the music you make. This will include everything from the songs you write, the music videos you make, your brand, marketing; literally everything you can think of the independent musician will have the final decision. Now this is not something that an independent musician has to do on their own as those are a lot of tasks although a passionate person who loves everything about their work will be heavily involved in every aspect! The independent musician can get help from others though. It might be that the independent musician has supporters and people that are passionate about their music and offer to help. However in most cases being an independent means hiring people. The record label is a business. In order to hire people or pay for the things an independent label needs there are a few options. Most people want to be successful enough making money from their music that they have enough to pay others for whatever they need. If this is not the case then the label could decide to get investors or people who will contribute money in order that the independent musician can release music. Often this can be achieved with the artist having control of all the decisions but agreeing to give the investors a share of profits. Other approaches could be fund raisers though usually the independent artist will normally have had some success first in order to be able to make the most of a kickstarter campaign. The real challenge for the independent musician is making enough money so that they can make the music they love. Sometimes artists might not make enough so use their savings or money from other work to fund their passion until it works out where they make enough that they can live only from their music. It can be very tough. On the other side of things is signing to a major label. This can mean the artist does not have to worry about money as they will have a lot of support usually but they are not longer independent. I should add that the artist in this situation will only make money from being on a major label once they make back what has been invested in them. So for example, if a major label invests a million dollars in an artist, the artist will need to make back more than a million for the major label before the artist will get any money! A major record deal means you have a lot less control. It may be that you have to work with a lot of other people on the music itself and may not agree with the decisions. The same could happen with marketing and branding. There can be occasions where the major label does not like the music and asks the artist to change it! This can be tough as maybe the artist disagrees! However signing a major record deal could be a great thing too but one has to know what they want and how much control over what they make they want. Another important factor is that the independent artist with their own label will own the rights to their work. This can be very important because it means that if they are successful they can decide how their music is used and make a lot for themselves if for example their music is popular as they will not need to share their profits. Often successful independent labels can hit a 'sweet spot' where the label has complete creative control over their work but signs a deal with a major label to help them market their music only. In conclusion being an independent musician with their own record label has lots of pros and cons but people that feel strongly about their music and how it should sound will benefit greatly from taking this path.

Kevin recommends the following next steps:

Write some songs and record them
Join ASCAP and BMI
Learn about record labels, music publishing and contracts. Always get a lawyer for any music related business even songwriting collaborations
Find out about copyright , ownership and keeping control of your own work and record label
Test the waters. If your music has been copyrighted ask any DJs you know or can get in contact with to play your music on their radio show or at a club to see if people like it!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, I appreciate your response! I've read over it thoroughly and I agree with the things you've said about being independent being extremely rewarding. Though I am not making music for a living yet or making any money I am still learning how to use DAWs, record vocals, promote it etc. and nothing feels better than finishing a song! I feel like spreading the message I want to spread and portraying the persona I want to portray would be difficult if signed to a record label, but I still want to make enough money to live comfortably haha! Again, thank you so much for your response! Claudia
Thank you comment icon Your advice was so helpful! Moronkeji
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