top of page

Do We Even Need Labels Anymore?

Just when you thought “Okay Kanye has completely lost it,” Yeezy has come out in public taking swings at some of the big dogs in the music industry specifically aimed at Sony and Universal Music, making great lucid points in the process. If you haven’t been paying attention, Kanye is upset that he is not in control of his music and so are a whole score of artists that are suddenly starting to see the ridiculousness of a label owning their master tapes. Numerous artists had their Instagram livestreams shutdown playing THEIR OWN MUSIC because they were not authorized to play it on the platform.

To say this is ridiculous is putting it lightly. If you’re not familiar with why this is the case, it is because most artists do not own their music. When a song is recorded, it is recorded on what is called the master tape which is what is legally considered to be the physical piece of music that can be owned. In the past, it was extremely difficult for an artist to record and distribute a record. That’s where the record labels come in.

They would essentially front the artist money to record the music in the form of an advance, and they would be responsible to pay the advance after an agreed upon amount of time. The problem is that after they have re payed the advance, they do not own the master copies and do not own your own music.

So that of course brings us to today. Why in the world does an artist need to have a record label anymore? Artists now have the means to record their own music and distribute it throughout the numerous forms of distribution channels that exist in the modern age.

Good recording equipment is still pretty expensive, but immensely more affordable than it was several years ago. From the mics to the mixers to the instruments, music equipment has never been cheaper and is only getting cheaper.

Distribution has become digital, enabling easier access to the audience than ever before. From Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud, and Apple Music, all of these platforms enable artists to get their music out to the listeners that are demanding it. Of course, the problem is that the platforms don’t do any marketing…yet. We have started to see a big promotional push, specifically from Spotify where they are attempting to advertise for artists more and more.

Artists also have numerous ways to market themselves. Instagram, Facebook, and various music blogs and podcasts are just some of the platforms artists can use to get their name out there and there seem to be more on the horizon. Tik Tok for example, has been increasingly more of a launch platform for previously unknow artists than it has in the past and it is starting to appear to be more than just a dance app now, and it is starting to become a serious exposure platform.

Finally, there are a lot more music blogs and podcasts out there now mostly because of the same reasons. No longer do you need a publisher or studio to get content out there. The costs for the equipment have gone down immensely and organizations such as Uncut Jamz are actively seeking ways to get more and more content out. Connecting the artists audience with the blog’s audience is one effective way of growing artist’s exposure organically.

Chance The Rapper, Frank Ocean, and the late Nipsey Hussle are some of the more recent examples of artists going the independent route and having success. Chance the rapper commented on the freedoms he enjoys in an interview with Billboard. “I can do whatever I want,” “I can do whatever videos I want, I can play whatever shows I want, I can release when I want, talk how I want, freely about any subject. I have a certain responsibility and I feel like conforming to the mixtape to mixtape to album rule would just defeat the whole purpose of not signing [with a major label].”

So, it appears that the need for a record label or middleman for that matter, is becoming less and less. I don’t think Kanye is that far off this time and I think that specifically in this moment in time, it is a more plausible scenario than ever before to own your own music. The advent of the internet and rapid development of recording technology have made this an attainable dream for those who are willing to work hard for themselves and create an opportunity to be truly free from anyone else’s obligations which will hopefully in turn, enable an artist to spend more time focusing on the quality of their art and less time focusing on how to repay the middleman.

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page