Hard Truths: You Don’t Need a Record Deal

InspirationMusic DistributionMusic Promotion
Hard Truths: You Don’t Need a Record Deal

Getting a record deal used to be the holy grail for aspiring musicians.

Once your deal was signed, you’d made it. All that was left to do is sit back and let the label bring your music to market–or so it was promised.

With so many changes to the way people listen to music, do record labels still offer any value to modern artists?

Do record labels still offer any value to modern artists?

The truth is probably not—you just need to look at countless examples of modern artists who’ve made it big independently without the help of a label.

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That’s why my hard truth for today is all about why you don’t need a record label.

It’s not meant to be discouraging. In this article, I’ll explain why you have access to everything you need to write, release and market your tracks all on your own.

Record deals aren’t what they used to be

In the past, record deals were really attractive for a few reasons.

For starters, they provided artists with an advance (a loan that must be repaid) to cover the costs of recording and producing an album.

Secondly, they had relationships with record distributors that could get physical merch in record stores.

They also had relationships with press, radio and other media that could build hype around a release.

Essentially, record labels were a big machine you needed to get your record produced and out in the world.

To gain access to this machine, artists were required to give up a large portion of their royalties and rights to their own music.

While this worked for some artists, there are many more artists who were taken advantage of by record labels resulting in legal battles and diminished careers.

It’s easier than ever to produce yourself

Today, it’s so much easier to produce music on your own without a huge studio budget.

With a small investment in a home studio, you can easily get started making tracks without the need to rent out a sophisticated recording studio or hire an audio engineering team.

There’s so much free recording software  that comes with free VSTs to emulate all the gear you could possibly imagine. Recording interfaces are cheaper than ever. And you can easily mix and master your tracks with the help of modern software and AI.

You can totally produce a record without the help of a record label.

And if you need help, you can learn online or find the exact professional you need through a networking marketplace like LANDR Network.

It’s easier than ever to promote yourself

That takes care of the production stuff. You can totally produce a record without the help of a record label.

But, what about promotion and distribution? Doesn’t it take years to build those relationships?

Not necessarily, especially considering how much the music industry has changed since the advent of streaming services.

Now it’s simple to get your music streamed and sold worldwide—you just have to release it to streaming sites with the help of a distribution service.

Attracting media attention is always a challenge—even if you have the support of a label.

So, take matters into your own hands.

Try putting together your own marketing campaign—send your album to radio stations, email press, and build your social media channels—or even hire a music promotion expert of your own.

Record deals might put a strain on your relationships

I can think of so many music projects that have broken down because of bad record deals.

I can think of so many music projects that have broken down because of bad record deals.

Even artists like Britney Spears aren’t immune to getting run down by a bad deal.

A record deal will put a lot of pressure on the artist to produce a great record, sell a lot of copies and tour extensively just to pay back the advance. And that’s all before they take their chunk of the royalties.

If you and your collaborators aren’t ready for that level of pressure and commitment, signing a record deal might be a big mistake.

It’s better to build your own team and platform

Focus on your music. Make good connections. Play shows. And, most of all: build your fan base!

If you do all these things successfully, labels will come to you and you’ll have better choices and the know-how to go it alone.

The best part? Everything you need to produce and promote music on your own is already there. It’s just a matter of committing and creating.


Alex Lavoie

Alex Lavoie is a drummer, music producer, songwriter and marketing professional living in Montreal, Quebec. He works as a staff writer at LANDR by day and writes indie post-punk tunes in his band UTILS while moonlighting as drummer for folk-rock outfit The Painters. Connect with Alex Lavoie on LANDR Network!

@Alex Lavoie

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