Let’s say you’re a young up-and-coming singer in your early 20′s with a good voice and good songs. Maybe you’re even considering moving to Nashville and hoping to get signed to a major Christian record label to begin your career. Before you make a decision, you make a list of the pros and cons of pursuing Christian music record deal. And, here is what that list might look like:
A Christian record label has the money to promote artists on a national scale. It takes tens of thousands of dollars minimum to market and promote a new artist in Christian music today. Getting radio airplay, press articles, television performances, social media promotion, retail distribution and tour promotion nationwide takes a lot of money. Most major record label new artist marketing campaigns will cost between $50,000 – $100,000 today. And it’s a huge risk for the label. And I haven’t even mentioned the cost to recording an album – throw in another $50,000 minimum. So, it can get pretty pricey. And, having a major Christian label kickstart your career can be very beneficial.
A Christian label can help you skyrocket your fan base very quickly. All of the money the label spends to get you and your music known, if successful, will help you build a fan base of 10′s of thousands very quickly. If you’re smart, you should take advantage of this. These fans will help you build your Fans Pillar very quickly. You should have Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and your Email list marketing and development plan in place and ready to serve your fans. Be ready to give a lot of love to your new burgeoning fans.
A Christian label can open a lot of doors you can’t open yourself very easily. Christian labels are all owned by mainstream record labels. Christian labels have relationships with Film & TV Music Supervisors in Hollywood to place your music. Christian music labels always get the ear of radio station program directors over an indie artist. Nashville booking agents won’t consider signing you unless you are signed by a major Christian record label.
A Christian music record label has an entire team of people to support you. They become an instant team for you. They have sales and marketing completely covered for you. They also have an A&R department that h
If you’re first release doesn’t sell enough, you will be dropped. This is the nature of the music industry – Christian and mainstream. In a matter of 12 months, you could go from being made to feel you are the king of the label to being at the bottom of the artist roster. Record labels are setup so that lots of artists’ music is released and many will fail. The percentages I’ve read and experienced is that for every successful artist, there are 9 others that failed. The odds are not in your favor, so be realistic about your expectations and have a game plan should the relationship with the label come to a sudden end. (I will talk more about this in another post sometime later).
You most likely will not be working with the same person for your second record. Employee turnover at record labels is high. I would guess the average record label employee works at the same label no more than 3 years. Companies are constantly downsizing, reorganizing, shifting positions. Employees are constantly looking for more pay, more control and more opportunities to succeed. It is human nature that change will happen. Plan for this to happen should you choose to sign with a major label.
Deals are made to benefit the label more than you. You are signing away your right to multiple albums and most of the music you write and record during your term with a label. The more successful you are during the first multi-record deal, the more successful the label is – but you don’t always win as quickly as the label does financially. They are capitalizing on your hard work and success. Be careful – they have better lawyers than you.
You won’t own your own assets. The value in your music comes when you own it. Signing with a label as a new artist, you are trading the Pros above for the right of ownership to your recordings and, most likely, all of the songs that you write. When your deal is done, the greatest assets you own will be your fans. If you can retain all rights to your fans, you can still make a good living off of the new assets you record outside of your label deal. And, as we’ve learned in the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, he who owns the asset is the real winner in the end. There is a reason record labels are sold for millions of dollars. They are always in the business of developing assets. And, they have wisely invested and grown the assets they own. Consider what will happen to your assets before signing them away so fast.
You won’t make a penny for music sales. The label will give you a nice advance in money, but you will most likely use all of it to produce and record your album. After that, they will own all of the music. So, your money is made, building and developing fans, touring, merch sales and other assets that you can develop. Don’t expect to make any money from your music. If you do, then you have been wise with your money.
Be ready to work in a high pressure, high stress environment. You will need to work hard regardless of being an indie or signed to a major label. Labels don’t have time to develop artists for years anymore. They need to recoup on their investment much more quickly than ever before. There is pressure to meet the demands of your deal. When you sign a major label deal, you must be ready for the high demand of the label machine.
Don’t look to Christian music labels to grow you spiritually. This is by far the most important. You will be thrown into situations almost daily where your faith can be compromised. You will be working with strangers. You will be promoted by and to strangers. You will be gone most weekends – mostly to sing in churches or church groups. You need to have time to receive from God if you’re going to give others your best. It takes a lot of maturity spiritually to meet the challenging demands of being on the road, making career decisions and knowing who to trust. If you’re not spiritually grounded you can become discouraged very quickly.
So, these are the Pros and Cons we’ve come up with to help you decide whether a major record deal is right for you. As your music coaches, we believe it’s always best to develop the 4 pillars of your Christian music career. Whether you sign a deal or remain independent, there is successful path for both. But, it’s important to remember, the 4 Foundational Pillars of your success remain the same – Your Faith, Your Creativity, Your Fans and Your Team. Regardless of the path you choose, it’s critical that you strengthen each pillar of your career. Stay grounded and be aware of the pros and cons of signing a Christian music record deal. You’ll be able to make the right decision when the time is right.