• Major Label vs. Indie Label vs. No Label

    The following article will give you opinions from recording artists, and music industry insiders on whether it's best to sign to a Major, Indie or No Label at all.

    Sully (Godsmack) - Recording Artist
    "I think major and independent labels both have their advantages, I wouldn't always suggest to just have a major label seek you out because I think that there's a lot of indie labels that do a great job and are more hungry to break talent, and with us it was exactly that... I mean we ultimately signed a deal with Universal to secure our career incase Republican (who's an indie label of Universal) decided for whatever reason that they were going to fold or not be in business anymore, we wanted to make sure that we had a home to go to, but ultimately Republic has been the most amazing label for us because they really showed a lot of heart and conviction for the music and we knew that they were going to do the right thing and break the band so... I think it has its advantages both ways, it just depends on how you feel about the people coming to you and what you think they feel about your music and as long as they show a lot of heart for it I think they'll do the right thing.

    Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit) - Recording Artist
    "The difference between independent and a major I think is a whole lot of things and a whole lot of nothing at the same time. If you're on an independent label one thing you have is a lot more freedom to create and the way you want to create regardless of the standard or the normal or the parameters which music is set by forever, the structure, the famous pop structure.

    I signed to an independent label first because I knew I could do what I wanted to do and I heard all the nightmares about the record industry. So once I went and did my first record on an independent label before we put it out I knew that I needed a major label to catch the world with it. I told my record company to go and joint venture with a major, and that's what they did."

    Stewart Copeland - Recording Artist
    "The advantage of an independent label is that you know personally the people who are making all of the decisions about your marketing, in every aspect of what happens to your music after its left your hands.

    You know the people personally, chances are they're not going to be fired.

    The company will go bust but the people you have a relationship with will not just disappear and the company stay there. The people you trust and have a relationship disappear, hopefully the company is gone too so that your contractually free.(Contradicts himself here no?)

    If you're signed to a major label, the guy who signed you, the guy who's enthusiastic about you and came to your gigs and convinced you to sign with their label he's going to be gone, he simply will be gone."

    Allen Grubman - Music Attorney
    "A major is usually a bigger organization, they can afford to pay you more, they have more money to work with but then there was an indie called Jive Records that started off as an indie and now is like a major. But a small independent record company you usually sign with when you can't get a job or when you can't get a contract with a major. You would use that as an alternative when you couldn't make a deal with a major or a major identified with a major."

    Darren Dean - CEO of Ruff Ryders
    "It's kinda hard for independents because they don't have the connections or the ties that a major has. If you have money, then you can probably do it independent and you'll be able to keep most of the percentage of your company but if you don't have money you have to sell short to be able to get in with the major and go in as partners, fifty-fifty split, and they'll put up the money that you're not able to put up."

    Russell Simmons, Chairman & CEO of Rush Communications
    "The music business happens in the building, the big business, but the reincarnation of the music business always happens outside of the building. We have executives in here today who are comfortable, we even have executives in hip hop who are completely comfortable and that's why you have a Cash Money, or you have a No Limit, or you have a Ruff Ryder or a Roc-A-Fella because those people have different visions from what's conventional and obvious and those people are always going to start independent companies and compete, no matter how much you guys at the big level merge, there'll always be young spirit managing new ideas that you won't understand."

    Rob Zombie - Recording Artist
    "The best thing that I can tell you from indies to majors is; indie's are good training ground for majors and there's just as many assholes in indie labels who are going to rip you off as much as majors so don't think like "oh I'm on a corporate major right now, it's all bad". We got screwed more on small labels than we did on big labels so don't fall for that, but it's a good training ground... you see how it works from the ground up so you can avoid those pitfalls."

    Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit) - Recording Artist
    "I get about a thousand (demos) a week and I listen to every single one of them, which I can tell you about 98% of all the industry doesn't, so I'm that guy because I do believe that I'm gonna find something, a diamond in the ruff so that you can have hope that there's people out there listening, but I put it on and I listen... I don't know what I do, I just listen... I always listen to the intro and I always listen to how you tease/stringing me along to follow your structure liking and how you go into your verse."

    Sharon Osbourne - Manager and Impresario
    "I personally listen to anything that comes through the door, it doesn't matter."

    Dean Geistlinger - A&R at Interscope
    "I always.... with demos I usually get to the chorus of every song which is usually a minute and a half in every demo unless it's just complete gibberish recorded onto a cassette which you come into contact with a lot of that stuff which people don't even know how to record a song, but I just listen for lyrics and just lyrics and their style and their delivery."

    Michael Bivins - Recording Artist and Producer
    "I've never really got off on just listening to a voice, my background has always been in person and a lot of the groups that I've had the pleasure of working with, they kinda met me... either eating in a restaurant, walking through an airport or clothing shopping so I kinda get off on the personal thing, but the demo is an old thing that people say "well send me a demo to such and such" but your demo goes in the same mail room as the mail and sometimes the demo could be there for weeks or months before someone actually listens to it.

    The same thing I guess that you put into making a demo maybe save that money and book yourself a bus trip to somewhere... try to show up in person... it seems like it becomes a little bit more personal."

    Scott Enright - A&R Assistant at Interscope
    "If I were to listen to a demo that I really enjoyed, I would make copies of it and first off go to my immediate bosses and play it for them and hopefully they'll have the same ideas that I have about it, if not I'm going to knock on each personís door and be enthusiastic about and take it to each person until someone finally listens to it and agrees with me.

    Steve Stoute - President of Black Music at Interscope
    "It's hard to get unsolicited material to a record company. It's very hard because everyone and their mother makes records, everone and their mother makes music, so to get music to the right person unsolicited is very tough, because I get thousands of demos yearly."

    Tony Ferguson - VP and A&R at Interscope
    "Record companies like to have a policy where they do not like unsolicited tapes because it can eventually cause problems particularly when it comes to copyright infringement. That's if a song is very similar to a song that is currently on the radio, it can lead to a lawsuit so we don't really accept unsolicited material.

    So our source of material comes from anything from agents to club owners to the Internet, to attorneys, music business attorneys we have relationships with, managers of acts that we have relationships with, so it comes from all kinds of things, and sometimes just walking around the clubs and walking around the streets. People find out that you're with a record label and they just slip you tapes... and you don't want to be a pig about it, you take the tape and you listen to it."

    Scott Enright - A&R Assistant at Interscope
    "Right now we files things as solicited or unsolicited demos. The unsolicited demos go into a big bin and when there's free time - a couple of hours ago I was just listening to the demos today, the unsolicited demos. The solicited stuff obviously gets a higher priority so that's going to go to the front of the line, and the unsolicited stuff when we can get to it, we get to it."

    Allen Grubman - Music Attorney
    (The way) "New talent reaches record companies to present their material are either through a lawyer, through a manager, through a friend who has a relationship with a record company, in other words the record companies will recieve and usually actually analyze a piece of material only if it's presented through a credible source, so the first thing a new artist must do is connect with one of these credible sources so that their material can be properly presented to a record company, to an important producer etcetera."

    Jason Flom - President at Lava Records
    "The art of getting your music heard by a record executive is that, it's an art. I think one of the under used tricks that I would use if I had to go back and do it again is that I would try to look up the A&R person on some of my favorite records, or conversely, if there's an A&R person who you want to get to, look and see what records they did and call their office, talk to their assistant and say "I'm a huge fan of the ding dongs, and the other thing", whatever, make nice with the assistant... the assistant has the power to get your music to their boss and to present it in such a way like "Hey, I think this is good" you know, and the assistant also has time to listen, where as the person you are trying to get to is probably being pulled in a number of directions and has a lot of stuff."

    Jadakiss - Recording Artist
    "I got started in this business by knowing somebody, I say that's one good part.... if you want to be a part of this business then you've got to know somebody and that's how I got in.

    A friend of mine is a cousin of Mary J Blige and when we were doing the demos he passed on one of them and she passed it on to Puff Daddy, so that's how we got into the game."

    Nelly - Recording Artist
    "When we load up our vans, we drove 8 hours straight to Atlanta, boom!

    Wait for the party, got to the party, just so happens that we were on the guest list. Saint Lunatics was already on the guest list, but we didn't know that.. so we're outside the party, Trail takes my manager inside, so we're outside, we're looking at all the people go in, we're just kicking up rockets and doing what we do. At this time, it's about 9 o` clock at night, so we had the police run us off, we come back, police run us off again, we come back, we playing a game with them. So he takes our manager in, he introduces him to Mase, and Mase was like give the CD to Cooter, Cooter's a guy for a real entertainer, so he gave the tape to Cooter, and Cooter was supposed to hold the tape for Mase, instead of him holding the tape for Mase he popped it in his deck, he heard it and was like okay, I'm gonna try come up to New Jersey, so boom we flew up to New Jersey the next day."

    Dean Geistlinger - A&R at Interscope
    "How Eminem's tape came to be in Jimmy's (Iovine) hands was that I went to the '97 Rap Olympics which is a (rap event), I used to go out and still do go out to a lot of clubs and a lot of freestyle battles cause I'm into more rap than alternative or rock music.
    I went to the '97 Rap Olympics aware that it's a big freestyle contest with rappers and theirs about a hundred MC's there battling against each other and it's just kind of a tournament with judges, and Eminem came in second place that night. I just happened to be there and met him afterwards and got a demo tape, kind of a demo of his demo that he was putting out on the street, like his independent release, and I brought that to Jimmy and told him it was just something that you can't pass up."

    Jimmy Iovine - Chairman at Interscope, Geffen and A&M Records
    "Dean Geistlinger wo was an intern, literally $7 an hour.. he was opening the mail downstairs, I fired an assistant, he filled in for the phones for one day and the second day or third day he handed me the Eminem tape, so did I hear it immediately? I thought it was clever, I gave it to Dre who I really trust, Dre loved it and we went on from there."

    Michael Bivins - Recording Artist / Producer
    "I discovered Boyz II Men at a New Edition concert backstage, they were singing a New Edition song called "Can You Stand the Rain" and they really did a number on the song too cause they were doing it a little different than how we were singing it. The guy with the glasses, Nate Morris, he called me for two months and he literally kept telling me, would you please please meet me, and I kind of found him to be like a nag, and I finally took the meeting and I'm happy that I did cause that was a big part of my career also."

    Nelly - Recording Artist
    "When you're hungry you do just about anything."

    That concludes this how to become a recording artist article.

    You will be able to get help with becoming a rapper by posting a thread in the Artist & Band Talk forum, and by asking other artists who post their music in the Audio Tracks & Songs forum.

    The article above is merely a rough transcript from the video embeded at the top of the article. The video has been found freely available online, unless otherwise stated.
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