Solo vs Record Label – Which Route is Best For You?

If you asked a musician ten years ago what the main route to national success is, they would tell you it was through getting signed to a record label. Being signed was the start of an amazing career for many up and coming artists. Today though, with Chance the Rapper gaining international success independently and Stormzy reaching No.1 on the UK charts alone, we look at the pro’s and cons of both

Solo

Being a solo artist means creating, editing and distributing your work alone. With the rise in social media and music streaming sites, this route has become quite popular for aspiring musicians. More so than that, there have now been several artists who have reached success doing it alone!

Pro’s:

  1. Full creative control: Being independent allows you to have full control of your work. You are in control of what type of music you create and how you would like it to be distributed.
  1. 100% profits: As a solo act, all profits go straight to you. No need to negotiate percentage cuts and profits.
  1. Control of music direction: You can decide where you would like to perform, manage your own time without the pressures of managers and label representatives.

Cons:

  1. Money: As a solo act, you need to be aware of all the costs involved. It can sometimes be very expensive to promote your work, rent recording studios and travel for gigs. Usually if you are new to the industry, you may also need to do a few free gigs, which may add to your costs.
  1. Lack of advice and assistance: Being a solo artist can be compared to running your own small business. You need to be aware of marketing and sales strategies, bookings and building a fan base. This means that you may not have the luxury of focusing 100% on the music.
  1. Links and connections: You need to start from scratch in building solid links and connections to get airplay on radio stations and your videos on television channels. This can be quite challenging because the music industry is known to be very exclusive.

 

Record Label

Compared to doing it solo, being signed to a record label means that you can focus 100% on the music whilst experts within the industry invest in your work. Though this may sound great, being signed also means you lose the legal ownership of your art.

Pro’s

  1. Money: Major record labels have a lot of money to spend on developing your career, providing you with the best recording studios, producers and distribution of your work.
  1. Scope: Record labels are still behind the vast majority of music sold, so it is still more likely that you to will become commercially successful through being signed, than not.
  1. Connections: Record labels have links to some of the world’s leading distribution bases and can therefore assist in getting your art on all major platforms.

Cons:

  1. Lack of ownership: Record labels own the rights to the music you produce. This means that you may not have influence in where and how your music is played or distributed, profits come first!
  1. Targets: Speaking of profits, a benefit of being signed to a label is that they have deep pockets. Be aware though that all the money they invest needs to be given back- in profit! This means harsh profit targets are often imposed on artists and if they don’t reach it, they could be dropped!
  1. Percentage cuts: On average, an artist gets around 10-15% of their profits. Given the fact that solo acts get 100%, 15% feels like a very small fraction!

 

All in all, part of being an artist is knowing what you would like to achieve with your work. It is important for you to set aside your goals and then decide on which route best allows you to reach them.

We spoke with British neo- soul artist, Omar recently and he explained how both routes are just as valuable and agreed that it simply depends on what you want to achieve as an artist. So, set some goals and see where it takes you- good luck!