I have been hearing a lot lately that it's better to remain an independent artist rather than pursue a record contract. Is this true? There are many advantages to remaining an independent artist, yet the pursuit for a big record deal remains a top priority for many talented artists.
Honestly, the odds of getting a record deal with a major label is getting extremely harder and harder everyday. When you think of the number of talented musicians and vocalists that you see on television (like the top 10 of American Idol finalists each year) you realize that there is some serious competition...and that's only a handful of people. A lot of the time, the most talented individuals aren't even heard on the latest reality show. Couple this competition with the labels continuing inability to break even, never mind make a profit, and you see why it is getting harder and harder. Record labels are closing...unable to sell their product through conventional means (currently the compact disc). The labels have to move online into the legal downloading community if they want to survive.
No matter how big, or small you are, with the internet you have the ability to create a worldwide audience just like the major labels. The main issue is lack of a huge advertising budget. This is where having a targeted email list can make a million dollars on your next release. With low, or no cost email communication, you have the ability to market directly to the fans that enjoy your music and look forward to hearing from you. It takes a lot of work and time to get email addresses, but using viral media like YouTube can help your friends spread the word for you, get new people to your site, sign up for your email list and purchase your music.
The biggest benefit of a major label deal is a lot of money behind you. They are able to advertise and get you into bigger venues. All of this money behind you comes at a price though. You essentially are owned by the label and are considered an employee. You get paid based on their profits, not on your drive to succeed.
You really don't need a major label to pick you up in order to become hugely successful. Matter of fact, a lot of indie artists are finding it a lot easier to put their time and effort into promoting themselves. With Internet Radio a lot more accessible to musicians than terrestrial radio, you have the ability to get "radio airplay" in your genre of music, even if you don't fit with any mainstream stations.
One of the main reasons indie artists like to remain independent is that there is no contract! They don't have to sell out to what will make the label the most money. They can do what they want, and perform where they want. It's just making a lot of sense now for independent bands to go with their own small business. You can always hire out Promoters and Distributors, should the need arise. You can keep your expenses low, duplicating CD's on your own if you'd like, or have one of the any number of CD duplication houses do it for you.
Once you decide to be an Independent Artist, that's it. "You're Signed"! You can treat yourself as if you are a success and take your career where you want it to go.
Remember that the only ones responsible for your success is you and your band mates. You'll make mistakes here and there, but you'll learn. There is just so much information out there that can help you succeed. Take your time and enjoy the ride!