Making it big without a major record label behind you

(The original version of this article was first published on the Mp3 Backing Trax website circa 2006 – 2012)

Can you make it big in the music business WITHOUT the backing of a major record label?

Seems the answer could be Yes. The major record labels are running scared. Figures from the RIAA show that the sale of CD’s have fallen drastically year on year. Conversely, sales of digital music (downloads) have risen exponentially, so while more people are buying music, less are choosing the old fashioned CD format to listen to that music…leaving the big record labels with falling profits and a major headache for the future.

The good news for new singers and artists hoping to make it big in the music business is that you may no longer actually need the backing of a major record label to make it big…

Going It Alone
High profile acts like Nine Inch Nails and Paul McCartney have already ditched their record labels and are releasing their own music (Paul McCartney is releasing his music through Starbucks coffee shops), and Radiohead are offering their new album as a free download and if you like it, then make a donation to them of how much you think it’s worth!

I personally believe that the demise of the record companies is their own fault. For too many years they’ve been selling the public over-priced CD’s – the very same CD’s which they sell in other parts of the world at a fraction of the price. Add on to that the Digital Rights Management systems that they’ve been trying to build in to CD’s which stops you playing the CD on certain machines and you can easily see why Joe Public has been getting less and less willing to stump up his hard earned cash to buy CD’s. After all, would you buy a bag of sweets that you couldn’t open?

In the past, the reason an artist would sign up with a record company was to gain access to their mighty publicity and distribution machine. Record companies had the funds to promote your act and produce and distribute your music on a large scale.

However, the argument now is that promotion and distribution can be handled just as effectively by the artists themselves (as Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Paul McCartney are showing). And it’s not just the big established artists who can do this…you can do it too. Every artist, even if you’re just trying to break in to the music business, can easily take out a free account with websites like Myspace or Facebook where you can promote your music to millions of visitors and talk to your fans directly.

Got a video you want to promote? Then post it on YouTube for all the world to see…No longer do you need the backing of an industry giant to get your talents spotted. The internet has now become the biggest stage in the world and the biggest market-place for your music…and when it comes to selling your music, an mp3 of your song will sell to more people, in more areas in the world, quicker, and more conveniently, than if it was sitting on the shelf of a high street record shop waiting for someone to walk in and buy it.

The Future
Who knows! Admittedly it would be unusual for a multi-million pound industry like the record labels to just let themselves fall in to decline completely, so it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see the demise of the record label completely – it’s probably more likely that they will change their business model to suit the ever changing music-buying public, so don’t count them out just yet.

Remember, they still have massive funds at their disposal which is helpful if you need an advance to buy some time to get that new album finished or need some serious money to shoot a video to accompany your latest single release.

However, up until recently you simply could not make it in the music business without a record labels backing. Today that’s not necessarily the case…and who knows what tomorrow will bring.

As the saying goes, “watch this space…” (or should I say “watch Myspace…”)!