Now although the information I post under this category is really information you would have to pay for (by hiring a management or development person or paying for it in the way you spend all of your money before you learn it), I can’t stand to see people be stupid. I’m probably going to upset a few folks with this post because in the event aspiring recording artists actually read this, they may stop wasting money.
First, let’s break a few things down. Major record labels are your Def Jam, Sony, Atlantic, Etc. Independent labels are smaller versions of majors, independently owned/ operated and they actually turn a profit. An “indie label” is NOT a company that you and a few friends started and didn’t even follow through with the proper business end to make it an actual business. I’m explaining this because a lot of UNDERGROUND artists refer to themselves as indies. The word indie actually refers to a professional recording artist that is signed to an independent label. The misunderstanding of terms causes things like ten thousand people thinking their You Tube videos are going to be taken down because the article said “artists signed to independent labels” and they were referring to mainstream independent artists (i.e. Tech N9ne, Frank Ocean) not underground artists. Like with any career, it’s important that you know what you’re talking about for your own good and it’s extremely insulting to the folks who actually know what they’re doing. It’s like me showing up at the hospital to preform surgery because I can cut good with a butter knife.
“The Record Deal”- Please. This hardly happens at all since the game turned digital. NOBODY is “signing” any artist for a significant amount of money unless that artist is already making the kind of money that is worthy of that investment, The deal that some of you would be willing to sell your first born for tomorrow isn’t even what you think it is. A standard major label contract is 80/20 or 70/30. Meaning you get 20% or 30% the label gets the rest because they put up the money for your videos, hotel rooms, studio time, clothes, shows, rented cars, etc. They OWN YOU with these contracts. They own your stage name, social media, and dictate your sound, style, lyrics, and to top it all off if you refuse? They “shelf” you. That means they own you as the artist and they wait out your contract and you release no music until you fulfill what they are requiring or whoever you are as an artist is silent until that contract is over. Good luck being a new artist and not having anything in rotation for five years. The only time an artist can be the wealthy that most people dream about is when that person invests their money in other things or has major sponsors like Pepsi.
We could go in deeper but today I want to pull the curtains back on specifically the “Digital Distribution Deal”. In case you didn’t know ( and you SHOULD KNOW if you consider yourself an artist), the digital world is very underground /indie artist friendly. For under $200 you can get your music copy written, and distributed to all of the major electronic stores like iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, iHeartRadio, etc. There are plenty of sites (Tune Core, CD Baby, Band Camp) you can get your music out for very little money. What good does that do you? Absolutely nothing if you don’t have a fan base or to buy your music and a budget for promotion period point blank, end of story. Making music is not cheap and being successful in music costs lots of money. The digital world may make it look easy, but if it was? Don’t you think everybody would be driving around in a Mercedes?
There are different levels to the “Digital distribution Deal”. In most cases, you end up paying a record label to use their distribution account. They have the same exact “digital distribution” that you can get yourself. Most companies that offer this have an actual record label attached to it and you are paying to use their digital name. Meaning, I am a Hell Razah Music, Inc. artist. We could make Hell Razah Music Digital, charge you $1000 for our distribution through Hell Razah Music Digital (watch the word play, it looks the same but being signed to “digital” indicates you are not an actual label artist) and you are paying for our name so you can tell people you’re signed to Hell Razah Music Digital and whatever weight the name carries is what you’re paying for and we may even throw in logo use so you can deceive who is willing to be fooled that your deal is more then using our Tune Core account. Then, we also collect a percentage of your music sales as well as count the numbers of whatever units you moved towards our overall units moved for the year, then we as the actual label look much better to our investors because of the total number of units we moved. If we offered this deal to 50 people, we make $50k and if each person sells 100 units, we can add 5k units moved to our overall numbers as a label. Let that sink in and some of you may have to read it twice. Most “digital deals” are exactly this, a hustle and you my dear are the one being hustled because it’s cheaper to pay the fee and hope you are also buying buzz and fan base then to spend thousands of your own money the right way.
This is not all digital distributors just the majority. Most of these digital distributors do not offer any promotion or anything else with the “deal”. Some may actually include some type of promotion and that is an important thing you need to find out (NEVER sign anything without an Entertainment Attorney present, and yes that costs money too). In some cases you would be better off spending that thousand on your own digital distribution account and pouring the rest of the money into promotion. If you’ve ever seen a label and scratched your head when you saw their “artists” this is probably why. Just because someone has signed a digital distribution deal, does not in anyway, shape, or form mean they are “signed” to a label in the traditional sense you’re used to and a good deal of them? ARE PAYING TO WEAR THE LOGO.
The average person would have no idea that the logo above isn’t actually Def Jam. Def Jam Digital actually partnered with Tune Core for awhile a few years back, made Def Jam Island Digital and a few lucky folks got to pretend they were signed to Def Jam and made a few bucks. I’m familiar with this because a former mainstream artist tried to “help me” a few years back and told me that all I had to do was add Def Jam Island Digital to Battlegrownd Entertainment and I would be able to charge people for distribution. Too bad I’m not a person who robs people, I probably could have made a nice chunk of change 😉