Bob Lefsetz is one of my favorite music industry commentators and bloggers; his insights on the business side of music are usually spot-on and to the point. This weekend he posted a list of reasons “Why the Major Label Doesn’t Want Your Album”, which is great for those who actually think they want to have an album released on a major label but mostly misses the point for anyone else, which is to make music, create art, put it out there in the world, etc… so here then is a counter-list:
Why You Don’t Want the Major Label to Put Out Your Album
1. You’ll never see a dime in money from it. Seriously, unless you’re one of those big hit acts the major label accounting system is so convoluted you’ll never recoup the costs of making the album in the first place. As a business decision, signing with the label is a poor one for most.
2. You’ll have to compromise your own ideas. Maybe you’re not Adele, or Lady GaGa, but if you have a strong vision of what you want your music to be, letting a corporation handle it is the quickest way to having that vision co-opted, corrupted, and messed with in the name of making a ‘hit single’.
3. If you do it yourself, you own it. This sounds simple, but many don’t seem to get it…if you finance your own efforts, you reap the benefits however meager they may be. A major label royalty rate is a pittance anyway, even if you see any of that money. Put it out yourself and you can price it your own way and pocket ALL of the sales $$. Most starving artist types are glad to have a few ten dollar bills in their hands after a gig, and owning and selling your own product is the best way to do it. There are so many different ways to do this now (Bandcamp, iTunes, CD Baby, etc.), pick one or two and go for it.
4. You’ll no longer be ‘cool’. Those hip indie rock fans can smell a sellout, and if you are established with a younger, hipper crowd already they won’t care that you’re not on a label. Sign with ‘the Man’ however and you risk alienating those who got you there for an illusory promise that most likely won’t gain you any new ones.
5. You’ll feel like a number, to quote Bob Seger (the quintessential major label artist of the 1970’s…). Being part of a corporation sucks, to put it bluntly, and if you’ve ever held a corporate job you know what I mean. The big guys upstairs make decisions the peons don’t understand and don’t agree with but can’t do anything about; your band as part of a beverage corporation is one of the peons, trust me.
6. Real artists make art whether it gets seen or heard or not, but they want it to be heard. I know plenty of musicians who are driven to create, with the business side of things an afterthought. I’m in favor of musicians running their careers like a business, but not as part of a larger corporation with other priorities. Sure, you’re going to write songs in your bedroom anyway and some of them might be good…now take that next step and make it your business to get it out there, on your own, at whatever level it might reach. Just don’t bother with making that major label deal a part of the equation unless you’re the next Miley Cyrus, which most are not.