10 Key Reasons Why Being Your Own Record Label Is A No Brainer

fotolia_3750424_XSAfter my last post on the record industry, you have been asking for something more concise. So here it is. The 10 key reasons why you HAVE to be your own record label.

1. Own your music

When you’re signed, guess who owns your music? You? Think on. The label does. I put together a compilation album recently. When I asked people if they’d be on it, they said “You’ll have to ask my label.” I’m independent. I own all my music. Not some corporation. It means that I get more money per sale than I would at a label.

2. Debt

Thirty Seconds To Mars have sold millions of records, yet they are $1.7 million in debt to their label. That’s right. They own your music, and you pay them for the privilege. The system has record companies keeping artists in perpetual debt. It’s just how it works. As an independent, I’m not in debt to anyone.

3. Artistic Autonomy

As an independent I can do what the hell I want artistically. What’s the point of being an artist if you have to listen to what the boss tells you. I don’t seek permission for anything. Musically speaking, I’m my own boss.

4. Direct Relationship With Fans

Your biggest resource will always be the people who love your music, not the record labels. These days, you can be in direct touch with your fans. What do you need the middle man for?

5. Crowdfunding

You need the record company to fund the record? No you don’t. Your supporters will help you do that, through crowdfunding, pre-sales, pledges and sponsorship. And you won’t be in debt at the end of it.

6. Be Your Label’s Top Priority

You’ll always be the number one act on your label if you are your own record label. The music industry is littered with acts whose main advocate in the record company left, only to be replaced by someone who wasn’t so keen. My own experience of being with a major distribution company was similar. I wasn’t big enough to merit the sort of attention I give to myself.

7. Experiment Like Crazy

Music is a brand new world. Nobody yet knows exactly how it will work, or how it will work for artists on different rungs of the ladder. It makes sense to experiment with different business models, pricing and so on. You can run experiments easily as an independent. With a label you can’t. They own your music and they’re in charge of the pricing and the business model. Even if you know their approach won’t suit you.

8. Become an industry expert

Being your own record label means you get an overview of the entire industry, from booking a tour, to funding a record, to digital distribution and more. You become an expert in the industry you work in.

9. You can make it on your terms

You are free to define what success means for you and work towards that. With a label, you work to their definition of success. It’s a myth that you need a label to be part of the industry. I get glowing reviews in the national music press, best album awards from the local music press, I get radio airplay, my albums are in the major stores, I’m on iTunes, I put tours together, my albums have been reprinted to meet demand, my albums are supported financially through sponsorship and crowdfunding, and I’m even been played at Anfield during Liverpool Football Club home games. What’s more, I’ve played with all of my musical heroes. Billy Bragg, Chumbawamba, Dick Gaughan, Leon Rosselson, Roy Bailey, The Men They Couldn’t Hang. All while being my own record label.

10. Even if you want to get signed, you need to be your own record label

To a label, you’re a business case rather than an artistic one. If you hit a dinner tray across your head while yelping, you’ll still get signed if you have a million fans. So how do you prove you’re a good business case? Well, they want to know how many fans you have access to, and what your independent record sales are. My goal is to stay independent. If yours is to get signed, you still need to be your own record label first so you can prove your case.

And a final bonus reason…

…with help, it’s a lot easier and more doable than you’d think!

#alun parry#be your own record label#independent#music industry#record industry


  1. sandy - March 4, 2014 @ 5:28 pm

    Concise, useful, well argued, well done x

  2. David M - March 4, 2014 @ 6:07 pm

    Before I read which were the ten reasons, I was hoping that 3 and 4 would be there.

    The effort you put into communicating with fans is quite apparent, and I am sure that all genuine fans appreciate that.

    The artistic independence means that you can try out new musical ideas – insert a reggae rhythm, add a salsa inflection, if you so wish – there will always be someone who likes the style. That freedom also allows you to put whatever message you wish into your work. If you’re with a label you might be told to withdraw from release a song supporting asylum seekers, the company being more susceptible to political pressure, as well as worrying unduly about sales. As an independent, all you have to fear is a knock on the door from Special Branch.

  3. alunparry - March 4, 2014 @ 9:21 pm

    Hi Sandy

    Lovely to hear from you. Hope you and Geoff and the gang are all well.

    Al x

  4. alunparry - March 4, 2014 @ 9:24 pm

    Hi David

    Thanks for your feedback. It was lovely to read.

    You’re right, it does allow me to be as experimental as I like musically and lyrically, but also too in terms of how I approach the changing landscape of the music world.

    As a for instance, I did a gig the other day that mainly consisted of teenagers who were clearly short of money, so I decided on the spur of the moment to cut my CD prices for the gig. I can do that because I’m my own label. If I wasn’t I wouldn’t have that freedom.

    And as you say, politically I can say what I feel without interference. Oh hang on, there’s a knock on the door…..

    Al ;-)

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