“…Don’t Let The Money Make You…” They Said

In this day of dying labels, especially in " urban music", many artists have considered staying or going independent. The allure from a financial standpoint alone is enough for anyone to take it into consideration. Take this, for example, record labels take more than 85% of artist streaming revenue on average. Most streaming services only play a fraction of a cent and when signed to a record label you don't even get to keep that fraction. With that being said, there are still various reasons to look for a record deal. The connections that can be made amongst label mates, PR teams, and legal teams could be something that could take years to form. Also, there is an overhead cost in trying to promote themselves, as well as touring, studio time and engineers, having samples and features.

Most artist starts running their own operations, from trying to books paying gigs to social media post and everything in between. This task becomes more daunting as the music created become more popular. Simply put, outside of her social media page, I doubt artist' with fame such as Cardi B, are handling much of their own day-to-day operations. Booking studio time, finding hotel accommodations. In most cases, it is handled by label exes or the artist' team. The biggest upside to being signed is the album budget. Money is involved in almost every step. Paying producers, if you're into that. Paying engineers. Paying the photographer that shoots and in some cases creates the album cover. In addition to that, you still have to have a medium to have the music put out. Without the capital, you may have sunken your ship before you get a good wind in your sails. If you have little to no capital but have a good core fan base, then signing to a label may be the best avenue for you.

Remaining an independent artist is the more lucrative route, with no label overhead cutting into royalties. Independent artists are more like small business owners than just musicians. They have to hire a team that has to be multifaceted in order to keep up with the demands of their career. Most independent artist managers handle merch, as well as some of the legal issues such as getting that Kanye feature cleared, or a sample of Nina Simone being cleared without losing too much revenue from each album sold. This task can be in itself overwhelming, there are several steps to just having samples cleared and this in some cases can hold up an album release or change the track list altogether.

An independent artist has total control over their own career, this is not to say that artist that are signed don't. Consider this though, your album release date have to be approved if you're signed. Which means, your music may never see the light of day. There are some artist who has clashed very publicly with their label for this very reason. Uzi more recently has been vocal about this very issues. Cardi B has mentioned her album dropping for at least the last 6 months but as an artist, under contract, she doesn't have much creative control. This is the usual issue with major labels. Most of the label execs are business people, not the artist. This can becoming stifling and frustrating for most. Their music becomes more like a job than a passion. Prince spoke to this during the 90's. Many people remember the photo of him with the word slave written on his face. He felt this way because he was not in charge of his own creative works being released to the public.

I honestly don't think either route works best for everyone. Some people are honestly not business minded enough to profit from their talent alone. Some people don't do well when other have control over certain aspects of their life. The key to finding out which route works best for you is like most things in life, being honest with yourself and, about yourself.