Written by Nic Phipps-Evans & Mel Williams
What do home-grown studios, DIY booking agencies, and social media all have in common? Each has been fundamental to sparking a generational shift in music industry history, leveling the playing field for any up and coming artist to grow their platform, anywhere in the world, even right from their bedroom.
For years, talented musicians of any genre have relied on labels to draw in a substantial fan base, but there was always a caveat. These labels required much of the artist, often for minimum pay with distorted contracts leaning in favor of the industry and at the expense of the artist’s rights. When it’s all said and done, a label’s prime goal is to make money, not look out for the best interests of its signed artists (unless the artist has earned some weight to throw around). Yet, for so long, larger labels have managed to shape the world of music from the vast majority of what’s played on the airwaves right down to the who, and even when the “next big thing” will debut. As mainstream media was overrun with popular culture, it became harder for especially new indie artists to rise above the ‘noise’ and provide society with a quality product, more authentic to the individual that dug deeper than preconceived and at times non-existent experiences related to sex, drugs, and a hard life.
But through technological advances, the music world has become less about scoring record deals and relying on promotional teams, and more about the artist’s individuality, growth, and connecting with their audience. And thanks to this generation of technology, not only can today’s artist bypass the label liaison to reach their potential audience, but the artist no longer has any rigid strings attached, preventing them from fully immersing themselves within their target market. Distribution is also made simpler, and its range much broader in terms of who (anyone), where (anywhere), when (anytime), and how quickly the listener can access content.
This capability for the artist to manage virtually every aspect of their career affords them the creative outlet many crave; to put together whatever project they desire in the manner they wish to express themselves to the world. An agreeably more appealing deal than relinquishing so much control to others who don’t necessarily care about the artist’s vision.
The days of an artist cutting a deal with a label to make a single, touring to gain popularity and having nothing to show for it are coming to an end. And some are rejoicing more than others. Gone also are the days where popularity is limited to any lone geological location of any one particular broadcasting station and along with it the rubric labels used to mold an artist to fit into that particular listening network’s audience. Today, artists can buy professional studio equipment and learn virtually everything they need to from web tutorials and join helpful networks where their questions can be addressed for free. Once they’re ready to share their finished product, social media (also free) has become an ideal way to go about it, allowing the artist to decide the details of their own release dates.
But of course, every option usually has its downfalls. Going the independent route requires more than simply posting content and hoping the audience will respond accordingly. How can people who never take the time to click your links ever respond to the content or you as an artist? Not to mention the fact that often times, most indie artists come from humble beginnings where there isn’t much of a name backing their endeavor. For some, the pressures of being responsible for the business aspect is too overwhelming and may potentially undermine their craft. But no artist should lose heart over this because in this day and age the powerful tools of social media and technology allow for the pretty sweet deal of choosing your own team on your own terms.
And that’s just one more reason not to seal the deal and become another statistic to the colossal label industry.
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