During an interview, ODUMODUBLVCK explained — however bluntly — why indie artistes shouldn’t take pride in being staunchly independent. In his view, most star artistes worldwide are signed under record labels, including Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, the late afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo Kuti, and Bob Marley.
In the words of his analogy, “30% of something is better than 100% of nothing.” Although some netizens agreed with his point of view, there were others who opposed record labels’ affiliations with artistes.
Historically, record labels have always been the engine powering the music industry. It’s the mitochondria — the powerhouse in charge of scouting, unearthing, discovering, incubating, nurturing, and promoting new impactful talent from the music scene. Transitioning them from being just emerging artistes, and shaping their careers to ensure their music reaches the mainstream via multifaceted support networks and strategies.
Def Jams, Atlantic Records, Warner Music Group, Empire Music, Mavins Records and countless other record labels are considered ‘home’ for artistes who are signed to them. However, it’s essential to know that each record label serves different purposes.
If you’re an indie artiste or an emerging artiste looking to make a living with music, and you are curious to know about the role of different types of record labels and the roles they play in the music industry, make sure you read this article till the last word.
Major record labels
This is unarguably the most sought-after deal by artistes because the record label foot the bills for every expense as regards promotion, distribution, touring and even to accommodation.
The structure of a major label is quite large; it consists of a director and board, the legal department, the A&R department, the PR Team, marketing, and the accounting team. Providing extensive resources for the artistes to bag lucrative ambassadorial deals and licensing opportunities, too.
Warner Music Group, Virgin Records, and Sony Music are some of the popular top record labels in the world, turning lead into gold.
Independent record labels
Independent record labels, often referred to as “indies,” are smaller companies that focus on building the ecosystem of young artistes with some special features unique to the brand voice of the label.
The process of signing artists with independent labels is less bureaucratic, and decisions can be made in no time without having to go through many procedures to seal the deal. Also, independent record labels can develop aggressive promotion strategies that include creative ways of promoting on the radio, in clubs, and online to grow the core fan base for the artistes they signed.
Notable independent record labels in various regions include Glassnote Records and Island Records.
360-degree labels offer a comprehensive range of services beyond music production and distribution. Their roles encompass artist management, branding, concert planning, and marketing strategy implementation.
These labels ensure their artistes success in various aspects of the industry and take a share of the artistes music earnings and sales, ranging from the revenue from concerts, merchandise and publishing.
While other labels focus on different strategies that build up the marketing framework of an artiste, the distribution labels lens is focused on music distribution — ensuring that artistes music is available on various streaming platforms and in retail stores.
They are strongly responsible for making music accessible to audiences worldwide, regardless of location.
A publishing label’s primary responsibility is to promote and license songwriters’ compositions to potential users, such as recording artists, film, television, and advertising companies. Their goal is to help producers and songwriters to maximize the earnings potential of their compositions by locating placements and licensing opportunities across a variety of platforms.
Record labels are key players in the music industry, offering a wide range of services to artists and shaping the soundscape of music around the world. Regardless of the type of the record label, the endpoint remains that it’s ensuring a rich and diverse musical ecosystem. All labels contribute to the discovery, development, and promotion of musical talent, whether they are major, independent, 360, or publishing labels.
In the end, it all depends on you as an artist to decide which of these labels align with your artistry.
Damilare is a music journalist and culture writer focused on the African entertainment industry. Reading new publications and listening to music are two of his favorite pastimes when he is not writing.