When a musician or a band reach a certain stage in their career, the need to be associated with a record label might seem necessary. Record labels operate in a variety of ways. Some bands have managed to have a career without any record label at all.
What Types of Labels Are There?
Most people have heard of major labels such as Sony, Universal and EMI but a variety of independently owned record labels exists, too. Some labels are created by bands to put out their own music. The most obvious difference between these types of labels is how much money is available to be invested in you or your band and how much creative freedom you will have. Major labels will provide a larger budget and more resources than smaller labels but you will also be restricted creatively. Because record labels are concerned with making money, they will most likely require input regarding what you can record. Independent record labels will provide a smaller budget and fewer resources but they may have a dedicated fan base that will be interested in what you're doing and allow you to creatively explore your music with fewer restraints. When a band or artist release their own material, which is known as "self-released," they obviously have complete control over every aspect of their records, but all the money will come out of their pockets.
Knowing about and understanding distribution deals is very important to understanding the purpose of a record label. For fans to buy your record in a record store or online, it needs to be distributed to retailers so they can have it in stock and for sale. It is important to investigate the distribution services of your label to make sure it will be paid for sales on time and it has a good relationship with retailers and distributors. Otherwise, you might wind up waiting on money that is long overdue.
Another major aspect of the music industry is music publishing. If your label is affiliated with a music publisher, it will most likely want to own the rights to your songs to maximise its earning potential. The purpose of music publishing is to make your music available for radio, TV, movies and a variety of alternative music markets. A lot of bands, if they pay attention to copyrights and shares, can make a lot of money if their music is published properly.
Advertising is another aspect of what a record label provides for its artists. Advertising can be very important because it will communicate with old fans when your band is touring or releasing a new album and it can recruit new fans if your band comes off as being an exciting new act. Most labels advertise in music-related magazines, on the radio and online. Occasionally, usually with a major artist on a major label, they will advertise on TV.
After bands record and release an album, it is common for them to tour in support of that album. The purpose of a record label in touring varies. Major labels and some independent labels will financially back a band's tour, providing a road crew, hotels and luxuries. Smaller independent labels often cannot help as much with touring, although they may help book shows. If a band is running its own label, it will arrange and pay for its own tour expenses.