Starting a Hiphop Record Label versus Getting Signed

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As a Hiphoppa whose been in the music industry for years, I have noticed a lot of changes. I have seen the tape come and go, vinyl get pushed from everyone to only deejays, and the birth and near death of the cd. I have also seen the rise of several independent record labels and fewer and fewer artists getting signed by record labels.

I’ve seen artists get signed and blow up and I’ve seen them go separate and blow up. So which is better: Moving independent or getting signed? Both have their pros and cons. Let us take a look at a few.

The advantages of getting signed could be huge. . .if you got the right things in place. Generally to get signed, you need a marketable demo, an 8×10 head shot, a bio, and a whole lot of hustle and patience. This is typically not an overnight process. Depending upon your budget, it may take months to complete your demo package.

You’re going to need somewhere to create your songs and if you don’t have your own studio you either have to build one or find one to document. You also need to find a good photographer for your 8×10 glossys. The final significant step is writing a compelling bio about your group. This is just the beginning!

Once you’ve got that done, you will need to be able to reproduce it and tap it to different labels and A&R’s. I remember sending out countless demos. An artist could easily get discouraged at this time. However, if and when you get a record deal there is still more work to do. Now you’ve got to really negotiate your own deal, promote your album, and hopefully make some money at the end of the day. Its a very simple process but not an easy one.

A good label will offer promotions and marketing dollars for your project(s), supply and reasonable accounting so that you can keep up with your sales, costs, and true gain. You might even get tour support for your record. Sometimes artists get advances for the expenses and they often have to be paid back or recouped. These fees have to be paid back to the label before you as the artist view your profit.

So how will independent differ from getting signed?

Well, generally as an independent you don’t have the big budget that a big tag has but you should definitely have more creative control over your career and business. That is not to say its easy. Its not. Once again, simple but not easy. To me the individual route is better for several reasons though:

Easier to build a market following

You can sell your individual label for profit in the future

You can create powerful strategic Squirrel Poop alliances

You keep more of the profits

Different tax benefits, etc..

The list could go on.

However, and being real, it is a really rough road. For many independents, there are no overnight success stories. Its a daily grind with much to learn.
Know where you are going. The music business is a business. You should study businesses in the music industry as well as other businesses to help make your business better.

Nevertheless, this knowledge will not guarantee success but it helps you get closer to being successful in the future than someone who doesn’t know.

And some of the steps for being an independent are just like the steps for getting a bargain.
Recording 10 to 15 good songs, pressing them up on a cd or downloadable mp3, and promoting your work are almost the same things that need to be done when shopping for a deal.

With today’s technology its not difficult to do those things. Why don’t you press some up to sell and shop for a deal? This is the way to create income and still look for other opportunities?

And even though you’re handling business, you still need to make sure you’re creating songs. Don’t stray away from being creative.

Whether you’re going the independent route or buying a record deal, the best way to success is to research the small business. It has the potential to bring you many benefits. Much success!

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