Record Deal Or No Deal?
Does having a record deal matter? Walking through the streets of New York City. I overheard a conversation taking place between a few young people who barely in their early 20’s. The debate was on whether or not a local artist should sign a major record deal. One of the young men began to go on about how he should be signed, and why that was important.
This caused me to reflect on the topic as I asked myself the question. Does a hip-hop artist need a record deal from a major label to succeed?
What should artist do?
The answer to this question would have undoubtedly been yes 10 years ago. However in today’s ever evolving music industry, fueled by technological advances. The circumstances for an artist are completely different in today’s music industry.
Artist signed major record deals in the past. Signing a major record deal ensured artist would be able to reach the masses. The record label would assume the responsibility of marketing and promoting your project. And in return they took a big cut of monies earned. And yes, there were always independent artist. However, very few could market their material to people outside of their local areas. Selling their CD’s and hooking up with their local Dj’s, were the only outlets for independent artist. All Before the birth of social media and other internet platforms.
Distribution channels including television and radio were not available to independent artist. This was the protocol in the music business for decades, but as technology began to take the lead. This gave way to more artist gaining access to recording software, affordable sound gear, and access to a multitude of websites, serving as avenues of promotion. These things combined, have completely reshaped the game to the point where independent artists can now become a major force minus the financial backing from a major record company.
Current hip hop artist are in great positions, because if they assemble a great team of qualified people and use all available social media platforms, they can achieve great success. They no longer need the permission of a record label to consider them great enough to connect with potential fans. And with respect to monetary gains, the artist who decides to go this route of maintaining their independence, typically finds themselves in a better financial position than their counterparts.
Superstar emcee Remy Ma made mention of this in her recent “Shether” diss track to Nicki Minaj.
Remy stated the following:
“ And stop talkin numbers, you signed a 360 deal Through Young Money, through Cash Money, through Republic. Which means your money go through five niggas, before you touch it Any videos, promotions come out of your budget Endorsements, tour and merchandise, they finger-fuck it. You make, like, 35 cents off of each ducat I own my masters, bitch, independent So for every sale I do, you gotta do like ten.”– Remy Ma “Shether”
Remy Ma gave us a lyrical lesson in finance, by breaking down the contract of artist, who sign to major record labels. Remy’s line exposed a lot about many of the things we already knew about the music business, which is why many artists are positioned to appear as though they’re financially well off, when in fact that’s not the case for many.
That’s enough for an artist to make the decision to remain independent, but in case they’re still not convinced, then take superstar performer Chance The Rapper, who recently took home three Grammy Awards and has performed on television shows like SNL, and Jimmy Fallon to name a few. Artist like Tech 9 have been taking the independent artist route since the late 1990’s, and has done so quite comfortably. There are also lots more independent artist who’ve been able to carve out a pretty successful career for themselves.
So, why give away your power when you don’t need a major record deal in order to be successful?