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  #1  
Old 06-08-2008, 05:40 PM
tomk tomk is offline
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Default Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

I came across this thought a while ago. The answer has become more and more apparent. The industry is just not the same these days. Apart from that, major labels have lost touch big time. It's a shame, and we can all agree, that mind numbing music is rewarded more than enlightening, technically astounding music, or just good and well written music. Of course this is all a matter of taste, but deep down inside as musicians, we know what's good and bad. I've heard many stories about record companies owning music, owning the artist, basically enslaving the artists, hiring producers to alter their vision and direction of music...i've seen it happen to a few bands around my area that are doing well. One of them even left the major label because they were so unsatisfied.

People can do pretty well for themselves nowadays without a Major record label. You have to be more business savvy and treat the band like a business, but not mesh the two together. The art should not serve the business, the business should serve the art. Or maybe it should be both, a two way street. That's how I kind of see it.

In the end, I think I know the type of music I want to do and the type of player I want to be...either way, I have to be true to me, because I can do me best. We need variety, and we need people to push the envelope.

Forgive my long rant. Do some of you agree or disagree?
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Old 06-08-2008, 05:42 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

btw , i don't like this fashion mixing with music business.
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Old 06-08-2008, 05:55 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

I don't think anything's changed massively other than fewer bands are being taken on by the major labels. It's always been the case that major labels will put themselves behind artists with commercial potential, and it's always been the case that the vast majority of acts signed to major labels will never be heard of. Fact is, if a band or artist is truly talented and has the potential to build a substantial fan base, the major labels will clamour to sign them.
Similarly, a mediocre band with mediocre songs are never going to make a living even if they sign to an indie, or set up their own label.
Whether you go for a major or an indie, you have to be good enough for people to want to listen/see you.
Anyway, it's all about the publishing deal when it comes to income.
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Old 06-08-2008, 06:24 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

The concept of what's 'good music' is indeed extremely subjective. For the most part, labels aren't selling much jazz,. fusion, prog rock (or other genres that most musicians refer to when they differentiate 'good' music from what sells to the masses.) And that's another dicussion altogether from whether a band is signed, going independent, or even what style they play.

Apart from selling what people buy - hey, what concept! - the labels cannot be faulted for the state of music these days. It's been a long time since labels 'developed' artists, so the possibility for success is truly in the hands of the bands. Is there anything really new? The last artist I can think of that's truly original - and succesful - is Beck. And he appeared almost 15 years ago.*

While it's true that selling music on CDBaby or through digital services will have a more advantageous payoff for the artist, the numbers are also considerably smaller. So a band that can sell 50,000 albums might be on par with a label having sold a million, how many bands sold 50,000 CDs through completely independent channels? Is their music on Amazon.com, iTunes, etc.? And don't forget, if they're on iTunes (etc) the majority of people buy a track or two or three, NOT an entire album from a given artist. Labels aren't in the business of selling singles. well, not yet anyway. It's just not profitable. And I think it's a good thing for labels to make profits.

A lot of independent artists/bands are demonstrating a backlash against labels, and I suspect that a few signed artists have deliberately gone independent. I can't think of any right now, because they've also essentially disappeared. But is any artist truly prepared to work within the online system, on their own? And what happens when the online systems get bigger... and start promoting... and become known for certain genres... aren't they becoming 'labels' too?

Oh yeah, this is something that artists and bands seem to overlook - tour support, promotion, video budgets, and distribution to radio and online services (and the remaining handful of brick & mortar CD outlets.) Is an independent band prepared to spend at least $100,000 on a video? Can a band puit themselves on the road from scratch, play a bunch of college pubs, and expect to break even (let alone make any money?) Can a band get themselves on the radio?

Personally, I'd rather have 10% from a label selling a million CDs, than 100% of my band selling only 50,000... if we're lucky.

And no, I don't view playing/making music as strictly a financial arrangement, but it's how I make my living. As such, the labels have provided - and continue to provide - the kind of exposure that nobody gets as an independent.

I know a lot of musicians and bands, and while it's popular to try and buck the system, I can't think of any who wouldn't prefer to get a record deal.

Bermuda

* And to Beck's credit, he started as an independent. But, nobody would have heard of him if Geffen hadn't signed and promoted him.
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Old 06-08-2008, 07:01 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

Given that there are only three major record labels, stagnation is a growing problem. This is actually something I've been studying recently. Independent artists and labels are slowly making their mark more apparent. Take Domino Records - a totally independent label that signed Franz Ferdinand and then sold 1.5 million albums based upon a complete gamble that would've rendered the record label's founder (Lawrence Bell) absolutely bankrupt has it not paid off and then proceeded to sign the Arctic Monkeys, who have managed even more substantial sales.

Naturally, a major label tried to buy the business from him, but he turned down the offer.

Ultimately, the flexibility of an independent label (with regards to employing freelance staff for promotion/distribution etc) means that now with a much smaller set of sales figures for physical album releases, the majors' in-house approach is no longer economically viable. The industry has been going this way for a long time. With the decline of the majors, it is inevitable that we will soon see a sudden diversification of music, but with a lower financial potential. Don't get into music if you want to make money any more!
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Old 06-08-2008, 07:04 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

Jones, Bermuda and MFB have spoken well on the topic. Pretty much summed up what I was gonna say. You did ask the question... "Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?"

As Bermuda said concerning good music being "extremely subjective", the same goes concering personal responses for your question. There will be the inevitable yes & no with various opinons based on informed and uniformed knowledge.

Something that one must consider when toying with the idea of signing with a major label is... "Are you ready to possibly have your heart broken?" That is one possibility that I never thought of early in my journey in music, but its one that I will never forget. Alot of lessons and unexpected hiccups happen when talks with labels engage.

The only way to really know if its worth it, is to experience the roller coaster for yourself, become informed, take a step back, THINK with your brain and not with your dream, and analyze properly. If your not fortunate or fortunate enough (subjective) to have that chance, then continue asking questions until you feel satisfied.
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Old 06-08-2008, 07:11 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

This is why I play in a local cover/original band in seedy bars, I can be creative, have a good time, and drink a lot of brew.
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Old 06-08-2008, 07:37 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

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Originally Posted by That Guy View Post
Something that one must consider when toying with the idea of signing with a major label is... "Are you ready to possibly have your heart broken?" That is one possibility that I never thought of early in my journey in music, but its one that I will never forget. Alot of lessons and unexpected hiccups happen when talks with labels engage.
FWIW, with the changing dynamic of music distribution, labels are hesitant to sign acts that aren't marketable/profitable.

Until about 10 years ago, labels seemed to sign anyone who had borderline potential. The label hoped for the best, but it also resulted in a lot of signed bands that never went anywhere. Being signed was hardly a guarantee of success. Now, getting signed is more difficult, but it also tends to indicate that the label feels they will make money. So while getting a foot in the door is harder, there are less broken hearts as a result.

That's not to say that if a band can't get signed, they should hang it up. I think that's a good time to do a real internet push... since there's virtually almost nothing to lose. But I think that should come after a genuine attempt to go big, and not as a prelude to it.

This discussion comes up a lot, and the question I always have to ask - and have yet to get an answer - is, who has made it big without the benefit of a label or other corporate/media backing? And when I say big, I mean album sales, touring success, and the ability to promote the music to a wide audience through so many media-machine related avenues? How many artists get to appear on network TV or in print, if a label's publicist doesn't arange it? Seriously, I don't have an answer yet.

Yes, the 'machine' is in need of repair, but it's still in place. For now.

Things are certainly shifting, and there may be a time soon when more people are heard to smaller audiences, but someday, someone will start syndicating and putting together conglomerates of web-based entertainment concerns, and that will become a cyber-label. Same as now. Perhaps the only difference will be the lack of big office buildings. Or maybe not... even etrade has brick & mortar offices.

Bermuda
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Old 06-08-2008, 08:09 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

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Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
FWIW, with the changing dynamic of music distribution, labels are hesitant to sign acts that aren't marketable/profitable.

Until about 10 years ago, labels seemed to sign anyone who had borderline potential. The label hoped for the best, but it also resulted in a lot of signed bands that never went anywhere. Being signed was hardly a guarantee of success. Now, getting signed is more difficult, but it also tends to indicate that the label feels they will make money. So while getting a foot in the door is harder, there are less broken hearts as a result.
Yes sir, I know this all to well - now. We were asked to change a number of things to make our band more marketable or should I say more targetable for a broader audience. This resulted in feelings of uncertainty within the band simply becuase we didn't want to change what we know worked for us as a band and what the little following of people we had enjoyed. Sadly, the industry professionals didn't agree and simply said... "It's our way or the highway." Many arguements between my band members ensued and the breakup of the band and heartbreak was the outcome. I didn't want anyone to tamper with my stuff. My music was my music. I stuck to my guns and learned many lessons in the process, and to a degree definately feel "Marked" by the industry many years ago.

Looking back with mature eyes and firsthand knowledge, we were more than likely a band that was high risk at a point when the risk assesment was being curbed due to profit loss, and somehow slipped our foot in the door. Such is life. But, as long as the story remains some might benefit and gain a better understanding of the business and its web of uncertainty and glory.

Last edited by That Guy; 06-08-2008 at 08:23 PM.
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Old 06-08-2008, 10:36 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

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...we didn't want to change what we know worked for us as a band and what the little following of people we had enjoyed. Sadly, the industry professionals didn't agree and simply said... "It's our way or the highway."
In that respect, for those who place their artistry above commercial success or popularity, then a label is probably the last place to seek an outlet. I tend to approach everything from the standpoint that anyone making music yearns for acceptance and exposure, and I realize that there are different levels and qualities of it. Not everyone needs to play for 10,000 people in order to be happy or feel like they're expressing themselves. I absolutely know people who are thrilled to play their music in front of 30 or 40 people one night, and absolutely misreable playing for someone else in front of 5,000 people the next night, despite the financial advantage.

Bermuda
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Old 06-08-2008, 11:56 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

The record industry has always been, and always will be, all about making money. That's all it boils down to. I know it may seem as though it's changed over the years, but it really hasn't. Back in the day, people had much better taste than they did now. But over time, that all changed. So it's not that the record industry at one time was all about putting out good music. They just gave the people what they wanted. And at that time, people wanted something that was new and genuine, not the garbage people are demanding these days.

As far as it being worth it to be on a major label, that all depends on how much of your soul you're willing to sell. You're not going to be on a major label and have any sort of control over what gets written and released. You do what you're told or you disappear into obscurity. And what's even worse is that even if you do sign to a major label, half the time you end up broke in the end anyways. The label sees your payment as "exposure". The experience of traveling the world and an endless supply of women and drugs as payment enough.
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Old 06-09-2008, 12:31 AM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

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. And at that time, people wanted something that was new and genuine, not the garbage people are demanding these days.

People have been saying that ever since there's been a demand for recorded music. There was as much musical dross in every other decade as there is now. The difference is that digital technology means that the public don't have to pay the labels for their garbage, and thus the labels don't have the capital to speculate on and develop potential talent.

If anything, access to upcoming 'new and genuine' artists has never been easier as the labels' distribution is no longer needed to make music available to a global audience.
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Old 06-09-2008, 05:59 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

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If anything, access to upcoming 'new and genuine' artists has never been easier as the labels' distribution is no longer needed to make music available to a global audience.
True, although the competition to get exposure is ramping up. The consumer/music-lover must deliberately seek this new material, and there's only so much time that can be dedicated to sitting in front of the computer, wading through iTunes New Releases or Just For You sections, or CD Baby's New Music page there are 40 new albums Avante Garde category alone!) etc etc.

That's a lot of effort, perhaps well worth it, but how does the artist who's going it alone get noticed? Who'll step in, become the 'label' for the online artists, and help promote those artists? Someone will... probably several entities... and then artists will start vying to associate themselves with those 'labels', and it will be the same thing all over again. Maybe not in the immediate future, but in the foreseeable future.

Same shtick, different day.

Bermuda
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Old 06-09-2008, 07:15 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

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Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
True, although the competition to get exposure is ramping up. The consumer/music-lover must deliberately seek this new material, and there's only so much time that can be dedicated to sitting in front of the computer, wading through iTunes New Releases or Just For You sections, or CD Baby's New Music page there are 40 new albums Avante Garde category alone!) etc etc.

That's a lot of effort, perhaps well worth it, but how does the artist who's going it alone get noticed? Who'll step in, become the 'label' for the online artists, and help promote those artists? Someone will... probably several entities... and then artists will start vying to associate themselves with those 'labels', and it will be the same thing all over again. Maybe not in the immediate future, but in the foreseeable future.

Same shtick, different day.

Bermuda

Yes, I have to admit to being sceptical about the lauded benefits of the 'Myspace' revolution, given that there is such a sea of people putting their stuff up. I'm not much for new music, but it would be like finding a needle in a haystack to discover the next big thing. I guess it still holds true that getting noticed still requires a massive amount of touring and fan-base building.
To me, the bottom line still remains - if you've got the sound and the songs you'll get picked up, one way or another.
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Old 06-09-2008, 07:31 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

Interesting discussion. One of the things I've wondered about is how the majors are marketing music these days. It used to be that the radio waves were a good outlet for exposing new artists. Where I live most of the radio is formated with classic rock tracks. Everyday I could hear Stairway to Heaven and Bohemian Rhapsody several times if I needed that fix.(Several years back Robert Plant even gave $10,00 to a community radio station in Seattle to not play that song after hearing it programmed during pledge.) You do see these bands like The Arcade Fire who seem to come out of nowhere and are suddenly selling out major venues. I was wondering how that happens. Is that all internet and underground driven?
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Old 06-10-2008, 06:35 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

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Interesting discussion. One of the things I've wondered about is how the majors are marketing music these days. ... You do see these bands like The Arcade Fire who seem to come out of nowhere and are suddenly selling out major venues. I was wondering how that happens. Is that all internet and underground driven?
FWIW, The Arcade Fire has been hitting the road since 2002, and not playing very major venues until fairly recently. They've cultivated a following through sheer perserverance, and their wider internet exposure came after they were already on track. I agree that they've done well, but I wouldn't say they came out of nowhere, or that they got an initial push from being online.

As for labels handling marketing, the web has simply become an additional avenue for them, just as it has for TV and movie productions, authors, and anybody selling anything. It's nice that we all have a place to chat, and that bands can put up a site and hope people will stop by, but in the bigger picture, the net has been extremely commercial for quite a while, and labels have been exploiting that as they would a print ad, or a tv/radio appearance for an artist they're promoting. The net hasn't taken away or really replaced anything yet, it's just another method to reach potential music buyers.

The advantages of online marketing (compared to print or radio or tv) are many: the immediacy and dynamics of being able to create, upload and modify ads/music/video... the cost relative to print or radio... the ability to provide video on demand (including podcasts)... contests and other interactivities... email blasts...

And like any advertising, demographics are important. A label may promote a particular artist on MySpace more heavily than buying banner ads for them on Amazon.com, and vice versa for another artist.

The marketing isn't really an issue though, and piracy has actually taken a backseat to the larger concern: consumers have been increasingly buying their music one track at a time (thanks to iTunes, WalMart, etc etc.) That's why 'album' sales are down - because people are buying the 'singles' they want. And as a consumer of thousands of CDs that contained one or two songs I actually wanted to hear, I can't say that's totally bad. Be that as it may, that's the real problem for the labels. They haven't been replaced by entrepenuerial bands on the net, they've simply been selling less as a result of the different marketing technique. And that's why they're in trouble... not because independent (or formerly established) artists have found it advantageous to promote themselves online.

However, the fact that artists can promote themselves online and sell their music one song at a time - just like the majors - means that even that money doesn't contribute to the labels' dwindling profits, adding to the slippery slope already in progress.

I think that labels will continue to exist, but because the dynamic of what's being purchased is changing so radically, they're going to have to accept that their glory days are fading, and they'll just have to settle into a new business model. It's somewhat scary for them that an artists can literally record and mix their new song, and have it on their site moments after completion. There's no manufacturing time or cost, no distribution time or cost... it's just there - right now! But the same goes for the labels, and it will be interesting to see how well (or if) they can maintain their position of providing music to the masses.

Bermuda
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Old 06-10-2008, 08:24 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

While I agree with a lot of what you are saying...and while you have earned a degree of success that is far beyond what I have achieved so far, I do have a few thoughts about a few of your comments:

Quote:
Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
A lot of independent artists/bands are demonstrating a backlash against labels, and I suspect that a few signed artists have deliberately gone independent. I can't think of any right now, because they've also essentially disappeared. But is any artist truly prepared to work within the online system, on their own? And what happens when the online systems get bigger... and start promoting... and become known for certain genres... aren't they becoming 'labels' too?
A lot of signed artists are going independent with great success. Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead are two examples of bands who released their own music, for free or "pay what you will," and are making a lot of money off the tours, etc. Now, I realize that they have huge fanbases, but you did mention signed artists here, not newbies. Also, a lot of artists are leaving their labels for corporate deals...I don't know if you consider this "going independent," but acts such as The Eagles, Madonna, and Journey have signed partnership agreements with companies like Wal Mart and LiveNation...the partnerships are all-encompasing, and the artist has a lot more control than they would with a label. Also, there are a lot of artists (Dave Matthews Band is the only one I can think of at the moment, but I know there are others) who have their OWN label, seperate from any of the majors, that they use to control their own releases, as well as release music from other, similar artists. Of course, a lot of these labels have distribution agreements with the majors, so it's hard to say how truly "independent" those labels are...but they are options that are succeeding, and that take away some of the label influence.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
This discussion comes up a lot, and the question I always have to ask - and have yet to get an answer - is, who has made it big without the benefit of a label or other corporate/media backing? And when I say big, I mean album sales, touring success, and the ability to promote the music to a wide audience through so many media-machine related avenues? How many artists get to appear on network TV or in print, if a label's publicist doesn't arange it? Seriously, I don't have an answer yet.
There are definite examples...the "problem" is that when they made it big, they got signed, and thus you can argue that they still needed the labels. The ultimate example is Metallica, who (and I'm not a Metallica fan, so correct me if I'm wrong) basically had a national following before getting signed. Tila Tequila got famous because of MySpace, and has sold music on iTunes, and now has her own TV show. Drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts is trying to make it as a solo artist without a label right now, using his already established fan base and MySpace to sell his new album directly to his fans. Ingrid Michaelson is also now a famous musician with a national following who got there through MySpace, without a label. Even though they are not famous in the US yet, The Ting Tings started to get famous after recording only three songs...they posted two of them to their MySpace, and UK radio stations started playing them. The band's THIRD GIG, which was a house party at their own house, was attended by many of the UK's top labels, and they were signed by the end of it...but again, they were already famous.

So hopefully that answers your question of who made it big without a label...

But don't get me wrong. You can have your label guys call me, and I'll sign on the dotted line right now! Seriously, Bermuda...I dare you to! ;-)
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  #18  
Old 06-10-2008, 10:03 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

so pretty much it's make money or write your own stuff? unless your known around your area and more? that sucks, i knew the record company's liked to make money but i thought they were only good for promotion recording and touring, not destroying a bands sounds! damn now i dont know what the hell to do for the fact i suck at recording and only know how to use audacity!
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Old 06-10-2008, 10:28 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

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A lot of signed artists are going independent with great success. Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead are two examples of bands who released their own music, for free or "pay what you will," and are making a lot of money off the tours, etc.
Don't forget, those bands wouldn't be where they are in the first place were it not for the promotion and exposure that their record deals provided.

Quote:
Also, a lot of artists are leaving their labels for corporate deals...I don't know if you consider this "going independent," but acts such as The Eagles, Madonna, and Journey have signed partnership agreements with companies like Wal Mart and LiveNation..
There are a handful - not a lot - who have broken away from the labels, after much success and being at the top of their game. Their actions cannot be applied to a small artist attempting to gain exposure and record sales without the benefit of a label behind them.

Re: examples of bands making it big without a label...
Quote:
There are definite examples...the "problem" is that when they made it big, they got signed, and thus you can argue that they still needed the labels. The ultimate example is Metallica, who (and I'm not a Metallica fan, so correct me if I'm wrong) basically had a national following before getting signed. Tila Tequila got famous because of MySpace, and has sold music on iTunes, and now has her own TV show. Drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts is trying to make it as a solo artist without a label right now, using his already established fan base and MySpace to sell his new album directly to his fans. Ingrid Michaelson is also now a famous musician with a national following who got there through MySpace, without a label. Even though they are not famous in the US yet, The Ting Tings started to get famous after recording only three songs...they posted two of them to their MySpace, and UK radio stations started playing them. The band's THIRD GIG, which was a house party at their own house, was attended by many of the UK's top labels, and they were signed by the end of it...but again, they were already famous.
With the exception of Metallica, I wouldn't say that any of the other names are big... actually I've only heard of Jeff Watts, and only within the drum community. That's not to say the other artists aren't doing well, but that's also subjective. As I mentioned before, they may be happy with 100% of $50,000 and their artistic freedom, as opposed to 10% of a $million and knowing that their label is taking the rest. Nevermind that they might actually have more exposure and money in their pocket that way.

And re Metallica, they were around long before there was an internet to help promote them, and they had a record deal (I don't know if it was an indie label, but they definitely had distribution.)

Quote:
But don't get me wrong. You can have your label guys call me, and I'll sign on the dotted line right now! Seriously, Bermuda...I dare you to! ;-)
It's like I said, despite all the talk about the 'advantages' of being independent, artists really do want a deal. :)

Bermuda

Last edited by bermuda; 06-10-2008 at 10:39 PM.
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Old 06-10-2008, 10:37 PM
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Default Re: Is getting signed to a Major really worth it anymore?

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Originally Posted by somethingstarted View Post
so pretty much it's make money or write your own stuff? unless your known around your area and more? that sucks, i knew the record company's liked to make money but i thought they were only good for promotion recording and touring, not destroying a bands sounds!
Of course it depends on the artist, but since the labels are in business to make money, they're entitled to a certain amount, sometimes complete control over the product they issue. I think we've all bought CDs because we liked a song or two we'd heard on the radio or seen as a video, only to discover that the rest of the CD was a lot of self-indulgent crap. In that respect, I applaud the ability to buy only the tracks I like, and not be forced to buy an entire album's worth of songs.

If anything, the artists need to be more selective about what they put out there. If you have one of those CDs where every track but one is horrible, was that the label's fault... or the artist's?

Then again, with being able to select the tracks we want online and one at a time, it's the consumer who ultimately decides and artist or label's success. We're truly the ones in control and I prefer it that way. Bands and their labels/distributors/sponsors still have to meet our standards.

Bermuda
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