Should I Remain Unsigned?
Record Labels Don't Have The Power They Once Had
Let’s face it, the power of the music industry isn’t what it once was 10 years ago, in fact it’s such an ever-changing face that I don’t think I’d recognise it by the time I finish this article. Jokes aside, technology and the internet is changing life for musicians for the better and it’s shifting power to the independent artist. The old model of the record labels isn’t as dominating as it was in the past and in recent times more and more artists are opting to remain unsigned.
With the power of the internet, an unsigned artist can easily build a fanbase, communicate with each fan, share their music with the world and more importantly make a sale from it. Getting your content out onto the world wide web is as easy as a click of a button, there are online services that can help you with the production of your merchandise, ticket sales and even give you detailed insights on where your music is being consumed in the world.
With that in mind, should independent artists still aim to get signed to a label? There really isn’t a definite answer to this, to each his own. Some artists crave the backing of a bigger organisation, while others prefer the freedom of doing it on their own. In both cases there are pros and cons, and it’s really down to the individual’s preference and the understanding of what works for them.
Signed vs Unsigned
There used to be a stigma to the word ‘unsigned’, usually people's perceptions of the term ‘unsigned’ was that you were a part-time musician balancing a ‘real’ job. However the perception is slowly changing, independent artists are becoming more creative in ways to fund their career and in some cases making a decent living from it. There are organisations like Unsigned Music Awards & of course our team at Reload that champion the unsigned, giving them the recognition they deserve and a platform to perform on.
Speaking of Unsigned Music Awards, here is a televised music industry award show that is dedicated exclusively to the independent artist. They have helped create a culture of giving credit to where it’s due and awarding the unsigned. It’s great to see such an event taking place and the amount of support that it’s getting from the music industry.
Unsigned Music Awards
We had the opportunity to sit down and talk to the Founder of Unsigned Music Awards, Simon O’Kelly. Hearing his thoughts on the music industry and where it’s going was really interesting:
“The industry has it's place, the industry works - it's a proven model. It has been there for many years and it will adapt and it will grow. From the unsigned perspective, the power is in their hands at the moment.
I think you still need to, as an artist, work with industry companies, probably fresh faced and new emerging industry companies at the beginning. And it depends on your mindset of whether you want to continue that model and if you want to say we want to do this forever this way. It can be done, but for many artists, there will come a time when they need investment or they need some money behind them, even if it's to shift records. Because there's only so much you can do in the online space, because there's so many people competing for it.”
He does go onto to say that it is still possible to be successful as an unsigned artist:
“I think there's a space opened up in the early stages of artistry and that’s where we're kind of fitting in. We're saying that unsigned is not what it once was and you can build a business for yourself and you can be successful.”
It is interesting to hear the founder of the UMA’s still has faith in the model of the music industry. For someone that is championing the unsigned and empowering the independent, he still respects the old and proven ways. Which goes to show that there really isn’t a definite answer to the question of “do I need to be signed to a record label?”.
Perhaps as an independent artist you hit that plateau and you need a little bit of backing to help you break out of that ceiling, or maybe you prefer to work alone and you’re more creative that way. Whatever you choose, only you can really answer that question. As it will change for each individual.
If you’d like to hear the full interview with Simon you can click on the link below not only do we talk about where the music industry is going but he explains to us how the UMA’s started, the success of the first televised show and where he wants to take it next.
I’m confident to say that the term ‘unsigned’ doesn’t hold that stigma that it once had, and it’s companies like UMA’s that are changing society's perception. Whether you decide to remain independent or not, just know that you do have a choice and there is a chance to be successful via either path.