Rhythm Creation - Music Production and Sound Reocording

This is a question I have been asking myself recently, mainly due to me releasing some of my own music independently without a label behind me and also because there seems to still be a high percentage of musicians and bands that still want to be signed even though there are some great facilities in place which effectively make record companies obsolete by providing services to independent musicians.

I constantly see more articles on the internet that deal with getting a record deal rather than trying to go it alone. Articles such as preparing your demo, getting A&R people to notice you are flooding the internet etc. I also see musicians on message boards saying things like “if I ever get signed blah blah blah” and yet they’ve never attempted or even thought about going independent.

What Are The Benefits of Being Signed?
Obviously this answer varies a lot from label to label and depends on the contract that is signed but the main benefits are as follows…
  • Distribution: Labels will have the ability to mass manufacture CDs and distribute your music in all the big stores.
  • Promotion: Labels will have employees who are experts at promoting bands, these experts will have numerous contacts which can get you into magazines, web sites and also radio or television broadcasting time amongst other promotion tools.
  • Financing: Lots of money behind them, they can pay for the manufacturing of CDs and promotion as well as possibly paying you up front.
  • Tour Booking: They have the contacts and name behind them to get you gigs in the top venues.
  • Help & Support: They will help you to develop your skills and provide knowledgeable people who can help to record and produce your music.
All sounds rather nice, doesn’t it. I mean who wouldn’t like to have all that done for them by the nice record company who wants to help you with your music. I believe that these points are what that high percentage of musicians who want to get signed see.

Back Down To Earth With A Bump
The reality of it… (Obviously depending on the sort of contract signed, this is a worse case scenario).
  • Distribution: The label owns your recordings and takes a huge percentage of any profits, oh yes you will see your CD on sale in all the big stores but won’t see many royalties for your work. They will own any new music you write too.
  • Promotion: To promote effectively they may require you to fit in. They could even make you change the style of your music to get you to fit into a genre they want you in and be marketable to a larger proportion of customers. They may require you to do things you wouldn’t normally do, all in the aim of selling more CDs to make the record company more money. They may even require you if you are in a band to drop members who don’t fit into their visions.
  • Financing: Yes it’s their money therefore they are wanting good returns for their investment. They might pay you upfront but should your band in their eyes fail, you may actually end up owing the recording company money for all the promotion and the thousands of drinks coasters they produced if your music isn’t a hit.
  • Tour Booking: They may also want a cut of any profits here for getting you the gig and owning the music your playing. More contracts are having this written into them. They may want you to play venues you don’t want to or too often with tours lasting months and playing every night.
  • Help & Support: Will you get this if it all goes wrong, No. Who will they blame, You. You could end up no longer owning your music or any music you make in the future. You could end up owing the record company money and paying it off yourself. Where’s the help and support now?
As you can see not all is so sweet. Note to everyone thinking of signing on the dotted line: Record companies are mainly interested in you making them money, they are just like any other business and want to see returns for their money.

Record Labels/Companies Are Obsolete
There are loads of products and services available that can help you to achieve becoming an independent musicians or band. There’s one major difference - You are employing them to work for you not the other way round. I don’t want to make out that going independent is the solution to all the problems, I just want to point out that all the jobs a record label does can be achieved yourself and may be a better option for you and your music.
  • Distribution: You can use companies like TuneCore to distribute your tracks to all the major digital stores such as iTunes and Napster official site, anyone around the world will be able to buy your music in digital format and you’ll receive all the royalties. You can also manufacture CDs yourself and sell them around the world via your own web site or in on-line stores which have facilities in place to sell independent music. You may not be able to get your tracks into the major stores on the high street, but you can certainly distribute them to your local smaller record stores and you can sell CDs after any live performances you do. There are distribution companies which will distribute for you to the larger stores, but many of these stores won’t stock you on if they don’t believe your album will sell, but realistically this method of selling music is starting to slow down as more people are going for MP3 files. The main benefits of independent distribution are that firstly you keep ownership of all your music and secondly you will get to keep all or most of your royalties, distributing your music has never been easier than it is today.
  • Promotion: This I believe is the hardest part of going independent as you won’t have the necessary contacts or the upfront financing to promote like a record label can. But you do have some very good tools at your disposal. The internet can be a great tool to do things like set up your own site, use social networks like MySpace, get radio play on independent on-line radio stations and in podcasts or get your music reviewed by on-line magazines and music review blogs. The internet is a world wide tool that you can use for promotion and a lot of the time it can be free promotion too. To promote yourself in the real world can be a lot harder, your main way will be through getting gigs at venues.
  • Financing: This will depend on your or your bands current financial situations and yes you will need some sort of financing to get started. You started music because you enjoyed doing it? So enjoy doing it and put any money earned through any gigs or other income sources from your music back in as investments for the first 6 months or however long it takes until you have earned enough to pay for services yourself. Today it is cheaper than ever to get started as basic home recording equipment is cheaper and a lot of these services available like digital distribution can be extremely cheap. You may not earn much money straight away but at least you won’t owe a record label money.
  • Tour Booking: Concentrate on building a local fan base up. Once you have done this you can begin to play larger and larger venues as you can guarantee better that you will can fill the venue. You may not be playing at a well known festival straight away but it is possible to build up to that.
  • Help & Support: The feeling you will get when you achieve things yourself such as seeing your music available in on-line stores will give you a great sense of achievement. If you feel you need the support of say a sound engineer to help you record your music then go and hire one, there are loads out there who may not be famous but certainly know their stuff and are looking for work.
So Why Are Musicians Still Wanting To Get Signed
Even though you can do all these things yourself or hire people to do them for you, why are musicians still chasing that elusive signing deal?
  • Musicians are good at music and the realisation that they may have to learn to be good good at more than just music such as business skills can be a major psychological barrier.
  • They lack the knowledge that they can do it themselves due to all of these articles and info dealing with getting signed and not explaining all the alternatives of going independent.
  • Musicians believe that music listeners don’t want to listen to unsigned bands and that these listeners want to be told by TV and radio what to listen to. The reality is that these listeners just don’t know about your music yet.
  • The current music industry in place makes it hard for unsigned bands to make it. For example radio stations will only play signed artists.
Hopefully this article has given you a bit of a insight into how it is possible to achieve going it alone and why record labels are starting to become obsolete. In the not so distant future I believe that we will start to see more and more services and promotional tools start to become available to musicians wishing to go the independent route, I think we will start to see bands becoming little businesses in their own right.

Why did you start writing and producing music? because it was fun and exciting? Going independent is fun and exciting too, doing work for a record label is like any other job, your working to line someone else’s pockets who believes you can make money for them. If your music is good enough and you’ve got the determination, why not line your own pockets?

Article written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation

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