In the music industry, signing and managing an artist can be a tedious and lengthy process. Every company in the industry has its own way of booking an artist and forming a relationship with them.
How are record labels different from other companies in the industry, and how are they different from how an artist signs with a record label? Let’s dive in.
First, some general information about how record labels are formed in the music industry.
To be signed to a record label, an artist needs to secure the signature of a manager to pursue the artist's career as a professional musician. This is also where a record label's representatives come into play to do things like recording a demo, strategize, and/or help out with marketing.
While an artist can start their own record label, signing an artist can be complex and time-consuming. This is because strict restrictions must be followed, which require detailed knowledge of the industry.
An experienced and reputable management company, label, and promotion company can be a good source to look for this type of service.
Once an artist is signed to a record label, the label will work closely with the artist daily to promote, produce, and market their artist.
Once an artist has completed the “line up,” “mixtape,” or “album cycle” (i.e., a compilation of tracks released during a certain period of time), the label will then work with the artist to make individualized changes to the album’s tracks based on artist feedback.
This is where the role of the recording engineer comes into play. Recording engineers usually work with the artists to produce, record, and mix songs.
Once a song is completed and recorded, it is handed off to the engineer, who will then analyze the song, determine the tempo, create a title and/or album art, and then place it onto the master tape.
If a specific song is not written yet, the engineers often record a demo with a band or artist to document a piece of music.
A mastering engineer will then master and make the track sound as close to a finished track as possible.
Once a song has been mastered, the artist is given a copy of the master. Depending on the release date of their album, the artist's own CD will then be added to the master and sent to the pressing plant.
Once the album has been released, the pressing plant will print the CDs and put them on shelves.
Record labels compete to sign good talent as it directly boosts their revenue. The importance of signing the next Michael Jackson or the next Kurt Cobain is way too high for a record label to stay relevant in the market.
To have a label produce your record, it must first be established. This can take time and a lot of work on the part of the artist.
However, once an artist has their management team and labels in place, the contract is signed and made official. The artist will then have a signature and face on the entire process and move forward with the next step.
Some record labels in the music industry have signed several artists at once and will create a group. This is called a conglomerate and is the way major record labels are formed.
Usually, if a band is signed to a conglomerate, the artists work together to promote and/or create new music. For example, The Black Keys formed in 2003 with Dan Auerbach, Patrick Carney, and Patrick Hoffner.
As the composer, you have licensing rights. So every time your song is played or performed publicly, whether it’s streaming, on the radio, or elsewhere, you’re entitled to the money – known as royalties.
It can be more common for an artist with their own label to sign with a major label.
When a record label licenses your music, they essentially purchase the rights to an album from you – and manufacture, promote and distribute it. They’ll pay you a set fee and act as your label for that album in the territory – or area that they licensed the album in.
There has been a huge shift in the way A&R operates in recent years, and it has been down to the penetration of the internet. Artists can now make and market their songs themselves to a certain extent resulting in decreased relevance of A&R in the scouting role.
Record labels now prioritize signing those artists who have already gained some momentum in the market.
But with increased penetration has come increased noise as there are too many artists, and the competition to get noticed is at an all-time high. This is where A&R comes into the picture as they help emerging artists get better opportunities to break into mainstream space.
So, even though technology has majorly changed the way A&R used to work in the past, they go hand in hand!
Just remember that you can’t make it in the music industry!