It’s a tale as old as time in the music industry at this point. Artists getting screwed over by their labels and bad deals. It happened in the 90’s and it’s still happening in 2021. The last 3 months, I’ve been in more label meetings and calls than ever before in my life and I can tell you, it’s not all that. Yes, having a machine behind you to support you financially and creatively is nice; but you DON’T need it. DON’T believe the hype of signing a record deal. I promise you, you don’t need to promise 50% or more of your income or success to a label in order to be successful in the music industry.
So here I am, telling you “oh don’t sign a label deal, do it yourself and you’ll be fine”, but what good would that be if I didn’t give some context on “how to do it yourself”. After working with artists for nearly 5 years; here’s some things you can do:
1.) You need to build and create — Social media reigns king; whether it’s TikTok, Instagram, twitter or a new app that hasn’t been made yet, you need to establish a presence on social media. I can’t stress this next part enough – be yourself and be authentic. This isn’t about faking it and trying to trick people into listening to your music. It’s about being you and giving people a look into who you are so that they can feel you, love you and support you. Be authentic to yourself, your music and your artistry and if all else fails, at least you keep your art and legacy alive.
2.) Invest in yourself — And no, this doesn’t mean pay $1,000 for a blog post (I’ve seen it done within the last few weeks). It means investing in the things that have proven and positive ROI in order to see growth. These are some things I highly recommend:
- Your own recording equipment
- Digital marketing assets
- Money to pay a manager
- Money to create/sell merch
- Money to run your own ads on socials
- Money to book your own shows / events
- Take care of your team
Also, DO NOT quit your day job until you can securely take care of your needs. then, put every penny you make into things that will bring you the income you need. I’m living proof, you can do both. Don’t quit your day job until you’re in a position to do so. Now I’m not an artist, but it still applies – I work a day job 40 hours a week and still put in another 40+ with AMG. When all you have is time, use it to your advantage.
3.) Expand AND GROW — As you learn what works and what fails, one thing needs to remain the same, make sure you are consistent and intentional with your actions and everything you produce. Intention is always key. It’s better to have a quality product than it is to spam the market with bad music and marketing. If you’re doing things right, you will be approached by managers/publicists/labels. They will seek you out when it makes sense to do so, but it’s never a bad idea to network with managers or publicists.
With all this being said, you don’t need a label to win – you don’t need a big investment to succeed. Double down on your art, start to build your cult following one fan at a time, make the best out of every situation and opportunity. When the labels come knocking, hold out, wait for a better deal and know you are on to something. Keep pushing and remember you can do this yourself.