Record labels handle the heavy lifting on the business side of your career so you can concentrate on the artistic side. As with any partnership, it’s crucial to find a label that meshes well with your style and goals.
One of the primary factors in your decision involves choosing between major and independent labels. Here’s a side-by-side comparison to help weigh your options.
What Constitutes “Major” and “Independent”?
As defined by the Association of Independent Music, a major record label is a multinational company that holds more than five percent of the world market. Due to mergers, acquisitions and attrition, there are currently only three record labels that qualify as major: Sony BMG, Universal and Warner.
In contrast, there are thousands of indie record labels around the world. As a whole, indie labels have reached nearly 40 percent of global market share.
Keep in mind that “independent” isn’t necessarily synonymous with “small.”
- While Sub Pop is now a subsidiary of Warner, the Seattle label was largely responsible for the rise of grunge with groups such as Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney.
- A&M Records, named after founders Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, was an indie label that released recordings from iconic artists such as the Carpenters, Carole King, Peter Frampton, the Police and the Go-Go’s.
Major vs. Indie: A Comparison
- Major labels have well-established reputations and significant funding at their disposal, while indie labels often have to cut corners. But with less of an investment to protect, indies usually offer more artist-friendly contracts, including keeping the rights to your music.
- Staff members of indie labels may have less experience, making operations somewhat disorganized. Major labels are big business with an efficient corporate structure, but the trade-off is more constraints on their artists.
- The size and influence of major labels can be invaluable in opening doors with media for reviews and other forms of publicity. Staffers at indie labels have to spend more time pounding the pavement.
- Indie labels have fewer artists so they have more time to work with you, leading to closer personal relationships. At a major label, you’re likely to be a name without a face.
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