#1
So what are the upsides to being signed? I understand you get your music exposed widely, but that doesn't appeal to me if it means giving up all my rights to my own music.

Are there any other upsides?

Do all record labels ask for you to sign away your rights?

yes, I tried google. god.
#3
record labels act as a bank-that gets it's money back from your share of the profits before you see a dime come your way.

if you have the cash, just do it yourself. i'm currently doing it, and it's tough, and fun.
Cream fan club member #11.
#4
Positives are mainly the fact that they know people like promoters and can sneak you onto the support slots with major bands; they have the ability to mass-promote you and get your stuff in the shops; if you're signed people see you as more professional (as stupid as it sounds) so you're more likely to get offered things (my band once lost a promised slot on a festival because we stopped working with a label after one album); and finally being signed can garner more respect from crowds just because they know you're signed, thus they might tell more people about you and then you get increased exposure which can lead to bigger things.

The downsides to labels, from what I've experienced, are that labels are obviously very profit driven and will extort you out of everything they can (one label I shouldn't name offered us a deal under the circumstance that we record the album at their studios for £350 a day (including accomodation at their studio) for around 6-8weeks, so basically we funded the album and they got a free product to try and make money from while we wouldn't get much. As they weren't keen on the idea of us self-producing the album so we could save on the cost, we rejected it. Had similar stuff offered in the past though, and have a label exec coming to see us on saturday but not sure what they'd offer if they are still interested after seeing us live - but hopefully they're more amiable, as they seem better so far from the correspondence between them and us.

Anyway, it's a double-edged sword and I'd say going independent is harder, but a smaller risk in terms of monetary investment, and if you make something big from indepence you make considerably more profit from what you sell!
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#5
I actually did some research for a college project back in the day on record labels. Basically, it comes down to money. A label, like pretty much everything, is a business and wants to make money. They help with a lot of things (recording costs, touring, promotion, merch, ect.) yet expect to make their money back from these things. Usually, you dont make a cent until they get their money back which usually means you need to sell several hundred thousand albums. Even after you pay them back, its usually about $.60 an album unless you're a major artist. I actually read that for an artist to make $20,000 off a major label, they have to sell about 150,000 CDs versus someone doing in indie with the same recording & promo budget would have to sell 4,000. Sure, its a lot harder to sell 4,000 CDs indie within a reasonable period of time but its doable.

Though indie does have its downside as well. Not only are you recording, you're also in charge of touring, promotion, merch and all the other things that are usually taken care of by a label. Also, you're making the money, not the label. Depending on where and how much you sell your stuff for, its $7-$10 profit off your album. It all comes down to how much effort you want to put into it.

Thats pretty much half of it, I can go on but I don't want this to be a wall of text.
Derpy Derp Derp Herp Derp
#6
Quote by lockwolf
I actually did some research for a college project back in the day on record labels. Basically, it comes down to money. A label, like pretty much everything, is a business and wants to make money. They help with a lot of things (recording costs, touring, promotion, merch, ect.) yet expect to make their money back from these things. Usually, you dont make a cent until they get their money back which usually means you need to sell several hundred thousand albums. Even after you pay them back, its usually about $.60 an album unless you're a major artist.


The part in bold makes me laugh.

The advance a band is payed out by the label is repayed from the bands royalties, not from total sales. So if a band got a $250,000 advance, and they get $1 from every $10 album sold, then they have to sell 250,000 CD's before they ever get another cent. Meanwhile, by the time that 250,000 album milestone is reached, the label (who takes roughly 60% of the money from an album sale) has taken in $1.5M when they only laid out $250k. This doesn't account for all the incidentals such as keeping the lights on, and paying the rent, etc, and it also doesn't account for the bands that get signed and never manage to sell more than 20k albums... but you get the point I'm trying to make. By the time a band recoups their advance, the label has made several times over what they paid out in advance money. The only bands that make big rock star money are the ones who have record sales in the millions, and are actually getting royalty checks. Plus writing your own songs makes a difference too.
Quote by tubetime86
He's obviously pretty young, and I'd guess he's being raised by wolves, or at least humans with the intellectual capacity and compassion of wolves.


You finally made it home, draped in the flag that you fell for.
And so it goes
#7
Here's a fairly simple way of looking at it.

When you sign on to a label, you are aligning yourself with a business partner. The larger the label, the more powerful the partner, which means that they can provide you with more access to a larger/wider infrastructure to get to market, and they have more money to put behind you.

However, nothing comes without a price. If you have a product, but someone else is paying for it, then they have every reasonable expectation to have a say in that product - from the content of the product itself to how it's presented in the marketplace.

Now, they wouldn't sign you if they didn't believe in your product in the first place. If they could take care of the content, they would, and that would give them full control. But they're not stupid. They know that fresh products need to be brought to the marketplace to keep the industry fresh. Expect them to want to have some say, but I wouldn't personally expect them to completely rebuild your product from the ground up. If you're not building what they want to sell, they will find another band who is. That's one of the reason most bands don't get signed.

Similarly, if you were a marketing genius, then you wouldn't need the labels to help you. Don't expect to have much say in where you tour, when your album is released (or more to the point, not released), or where it goes on the shelf, or what your lead-off single will be.

In the end, though, they are helping to finance your product. Until you've paid them back through sales, they are going to be *very* motivated to make sure they have the best shot at making that money back that they can. And sometimes they will just go into damage control. Some bands get signed, have their albums done and ready to go, and the label decides to cut their losses. "We can either suck up the $150 000 we've paid out already, or continue to spend another $500 000 on something that won't sell. Let's just quit while we're ahead." And because they're the ones financing the project, you really don't have any say.

Like any other financial relationship, the person with the money holds the power. The good news, though, is that if you become an AC/DC, U2, or Justin Bieber, the label knows that YOU are the money-maker (albeit with their help), and will give YOU more say than, say, Alien Ant Farm in 2011.

As far as signing away your rights.... that's over-rated. A typical deal says that you split the publishing 50/50. You still have 50. You still control your material. Bu-ut.... they have 50 too, and that means that they can control it as well. Mind you, as long as you are with the label, you will almost undoubtedly have an exclusive deal, which means that you will work exclusively with the label.

Let's see what that means....

While you are with the label:
-The label wants to use your songs, they can. You want to use your songs, you can - as long as it is through them. You're business partners after all. You can't, however, be signed with Universal and allow Sony to use the songs. If the label wants to use the songs, they can, whether you like it or not. After all, you have an agreement with them, and that's part of the agreement. Besides, you're business partners, and you really can't b!tch about your business partner helping you make money as per the terms of your agreement.

After the label and you part ways:
-you can use the material how you wish. Sony? Yep. EMI? Yep. Release independently? Yep. Allow your friend's band to cover it? Yep. But.... so can they. If they want to put it out on a compilation and you don't like it... well... too bad. They own 50% of the publishing, which is enough to get it done. If they want to authorize Taylor Swift to do a countri-fied kiddie cover of it... they can do that too.

You always keep 100% of the writer's credit. (assuming you wrote 100% of the song)

Here's something a lot of people don't consider, though.... When you talk about publishing and ownership of the material, we are talking about just that... the material.

But there is also the ownership of the mater recording!! Generally, THAT is owned by the label. Real-life case... Helix (www.planethelix.com) had a big hit in the mid-'80's called Heavy Metal Love, when they were signed to EMI (Capitol.) A popular TV show was making a movie (The Trailer Park Boys) and wanted to use the song in the soundtrack. Brian (the writer of the song) said, "yeah, go for it." It's his song. He can do that. The fly in the ointment was that EMI said, "yeah, if Brian said use the song, then use the song.... but we're not allowing you to use the recording." They would not authorize a reproduction/synchronization licence. (God only knows why not...) So the band had to re-record the song for the movie, so they could use a recording that THEY owned.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#8
Quote by jpatan
The part in bold makes me laugh.

The advance a band is payed out by the label is repayed from the bands royalties, not from total sales. So if a band got a $250,000 advance, and they get $1 from every $10 album sold, then they have to sell 250,000 CD's before they ever get another cent. Meanwhile, by the time that 250,000 album milestone is reached, the label (who takes roughly 60% of the money from an album sale) has taken in $1.5M when they only laid out $250k. This doesn't account for all the incidentals such as keeping the lights on, and paying the rent, etc, and it also doesn't account for the bands that get signed and never manage to sell more than 20k albums... but you get the point I'm trying to make. By the time a band recoups their advance, the label has made several times over what they paid out in advance money. The only bands that make big rock star money are the ones who have record sales in the millions, and are actually getting royalty checks. Plus writing your own songs makes a difference too.


I mostly agree with this, except that that $250K advance won't go very far in today's marketplace. So, after the $250K advance has been recouped, the label will probably spend at least another half-million or so just to put the record out and promote it.

As a general guideline within the industry, the amount of money spent on an album to promote it and keep it visible in the marketplace means that an album generally needs to go gold to make any real money. The break-even point isn't much less than that.

So while it's true that we wrongfully assume that the Puddle of Muds and the Ataris and such are living the dream, it is also true that the Eminems and the Justin Biebers and Metallicas help to finance a lot of our other favourite bands and give them a chance to release music. (so, next time you make fun of Justin Bieber, remember that his album sales, along with Rhianna and Sum 41 are probably financing My Darkest Days... all on Island Records.)

It's too easy (and often done as a justification for theft, but that's a whole other topic) to demonize the zillion-dollar-money-grubbing record labels, I really doubt they make as much money as people think they do. If they did, why are there so few of them? Why have so many of them sold out to larger labels if they were making great money in the first place? Why is the product range within the market so limited? Answer... because most stuff just doesn't make money!

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#9
While I can't speak about any of the actually important stuff, the way I see it, in terms of signing the rights to your songs away, just don't put forth the songs that you're going to want to keep the rights to.

If I were ever to get a record deal, I'd keep all of the more personal and favourite of my stuff to myself.
#10
^... except if they're your best songs, then you're trying to get signed on 2nd-tier material. That's not a pony I'd bet on.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#11
Yeah, I was just using $250k as a nice round number. A $250k advance split 4 ways after recording and video expenses, etc would give each band member something like $10k. Can't buy many Bentleys with that. Plus I just used a $10 album cost for simplicity's sake. Most pressed discs are more like $13-16 depending where you buy them.

Either way, I agree with what you said above. The record companies aren't raking it in, because there are other expenses that they cover. HOWEVER, I still find it amusing that the advance repayment comes from the royalty revenue. It seems that the system is designed to keep the artists under the thumb of the label, and only the mega bands can break free and negotiate a favorable deal.

There's also the fact that the current label / contract model seems to be dying due to piracy. Back in the day to make a copy of an album you had to have a dual tape deck, and it took like an hour. Now you can come home with a CD, and in 5 minutes flat you can have it on the internet with a million free downloads. Hard to compete with free.

The downside is that availability of the internet, and self promotion hasn't really helped musicians as much as it should. I think because the major labels haven't figured out how to regain control of the market, everything is kinda in limbo. Plus even if a band self promotes, they still have to deal with people downloading their music for free.
Quote by tubetime86
He's obviously pretty young, and I'd guess he's being raised by wolves, or at least humans with the intellectual capacity and compassion of wolves.


You finally made it home, draped in the flag that you fell for.
And so it goes
#12
thanks everyone. loads of great information here. I appreciate it.

Quick question. There's four major record labels. Do the ones that fall in the sub-divisions count as major record labels as well? like Roadrunner or Atlantic records?

but anyways, I was mostly wondering about indie labels since I've been speaking to someone from one. a major label is the last thing I'd go near.
#13
If you compare it to playing slots, it goes kinda like this:

completely DIY: penny slots
indie label: nickel slots, quarter slots
majors: dollar slots

The payoff is proportionate to the risk and initial investment, but even playing the pennies, chances are you won't win much, if at all.

Go with an indie label, sure, but don't expect the same access to infrastructure and monetary investment you'll get from a major.

Many indie labels don't really offer much. In fact, a good barometer of what they'll do for you is to look at the other artists on their roster. If you've heard of most of them, then they'll be able to hook you up with a lot. If you've never heard of any of them, then chances are, nobody will ever hear of you either.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#15
While this topic is on record labels, here's a question. What I didn't really understand from reading all this thread is, do you make money by being on a record label? It sounded like you had a hard chance of making any livable money by being on a label.

It might be an obscure idea, but couldn't I make mainstream-like music, the kind of music a record label would want to sign, and evidentally make livable money of it, but on the side make my own music that I would actually be pasionate about and release that myself? How do record labels feel about side-projects and releasing your own songs on the side? I mean, if you're making money anyway, you could even release those songs for free if you wanted to and hopefully gained a fan base that respected you for your side-project songs rather than the record label songs.
#16
Quote by Sief9
While this topic is on record labels, here's a question. What I didn't really understand from reading all this thread is, do you make money by being on a record label? It sounded like you had a hard chance of making any livable money by being on a label.

It might be an obscure idea, but couldn't I make mainstream-like music, the kind of music a record label would want to sign, and evidentally make livable money of it, but on the side make my own music that I would actually be pasionate about and release that myself? How do record labels feel about side-projects and releasing your own songs on the side? I mean, if you're making money anyway, you could even release those songs for free if you wanted to and hopefully gained a fan base that respected you for your side-project songs rather than the record label songs.

It depends on lots of things...

1) There are many different deals out there... some will make you pay for more than others, some will have you pay money upfront and then earn it back, while others might give you an advance (very rare these days) to make your album etc. and then they claw back money from the advance by not giving you anything until you've paid back your advance to them in sales.

2) How would you plan on making money? Most major acts these days make most of their money from ticket sales, merch sales, and sponsorships/endorsements. There is very little money left in CD/download sales unless you are a huge, already established band, that happen to be of a genre that appeals to people still likely to purchase as opposed to download (i.e a lot of pop artists do better out of music sales because young children/their parents are more likely to pay for the music than illegally download it).

I'll maybe add to this later or someone else can continue as I'm busy now
Hey, look. Sigs are back.
#17
Quote by DisarmGoliath
It depends on lots of things...

1) There are many different deals out there... some will make you pay for more than others, some will have you pay money upfront and then earn it back, while others might give you an advance (very rare these days) to make your album etc. and then they claw back money from the advance by not giving you anything until you've paid back your advance to them in sales.

2) How would you plan on making money? Most major acts these days make most of their money from ticket sales, merch sales, and sponsorships/endorsements. There is very little money left in CD/download sales unless you are a huge, already established band, that happen to be of a genre that appeals to people still likely to purchase as opposed to download (i.e a lot of pop artists do better out of music sales because young children/their parents are more likely to pay for the music than illegally download it).

I'll maybe add to this later or someone else can continue as I'm busy now

Ah alright, so overall every record label is different and it's all a risk to get signed? And yeah I know that planning to make a living off album sales is a bit rough, I mean, most people buy albums that are impossible to find elsewhere, once you get popular then it's too easier to find the music. So that mainstream idea, yeah I'd go on tour, play shows, have merch, it's an extremely unlikely idea, but ****. Being in a successful band is probably my ideal career choice.
#18
Quote by Sief9
While this topic is on record labels, here's a question. What I didn't really understand from reading all this thread is, do you make money by being on a record label? It sounded like you had a hard chance of making any livable money by being on a label.


It's hard to make money on original music, full stop. It doesn't matter if you are on a label or not. The labels signing bands is kind of like playing the ponies. They'll bet on very few horses, but if they have a really good reason to believe the horse might win, they'll bet a decent amount of money in hopes that it will happen. Sometimes they'll sign a Taylor Swift or a Linkin Park and win. Often they'll sign a great band that won't go anywhere, and they'll lose. So long as the winnings outnumber the losses, they'll be able to keep playing. But once you're out of money, it's time to leave the track and go home to your family.

The difference between being on a label and being entirely DIY is that on a label, you will hopefully generate a ton of money, and you will get a small portion of that. Let's say you go gold.... in the US, that is 500 000 copies. At, let's say $1/album, you generate a half a million dollars for your band. The label probably spent at least that amount just promoting you. Retail takes half, and then there are a variety of other people who need to be paid too, so the label really isn't collecting a ton of money off this.

So, you say to yourself, "a buck an album?! If I go entirely DIY, I can get at least ten times that!" Well, that's right. Instead of getting a small slice of a large pie, you get an entire pie... but you alone determine how big that pie is. Hey, as an indie artist, you sold 5 000 copies. Well done! Geez... very few bands do that. And you get the WHOLE thing!! GREAT!! But wait a sec... that's.... 5 000 x 10... $50 000.

Now you can fudge those numbers all day long and come up with a zillion different scenarios, but the fact remains, it comes down to a choice between a small slice of a larger pie, or having the whole pie, albeit a smaller one.

Quote by Sief9

It might be an obscure idea, but couldn't I make mainstream-like music, the kind of music a record label would want to sign, and evidentally make livable money of it, but on the side make my own music that I would actually be pasionate about and release that myself? How do record labels feel about side-projects and releasing your own songs on the side? I mean, if you're making money anyway, you could even release those songs for free if you wanted to and hopefully gained a fan base that respected you for your side-project songs rather than the record label songs.


Well, when you sign to a label, the contract is pretty well invariably an exclusive deal. That means that any material you want to release during this business partnership MUST be done through the label. It also means that, if the label doesn't want to release it, they won't. They will always have that option. After all, it's their money footing the bill, and labels have been burned before by bands who want to get out of a contract by deliberately throwing together a crappy album. Imagine if the label was obligated to release it and promote it.

If you're writing material that you think you might want to release outside of your label contract, you'll have to wait until your contract is done.

Sometimes, an artist from one label will write with an artist from another label. Question: Whose label releases the song? Answer: That would require a completely separate agreement between the artists and their respective labels. It gets complicated, and ultimately can be expensive. This is why most collaborations are between artists who appear on the same label.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.