The Pros and Cons of Signing a Deal with a Christian Record Label

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:

PROS
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

CONS
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.

 

 

 

33 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Signing a Deal with a Christian Record Label

  1. Used to publish and produce country music years ago. Had a great time doing so but eventually got out of the business.
    Now… 20 years later I happened onto a “ringer”!
    Got this guy on the radio and in front of people.
    Need a quick low down on the music industry so I can successfully navigate through it with him!
    He will sell! No doubt!

  2. Music producer born and raised in Miami, Florida. I work with various local artists within the christian community who are by far the best I have seen. I specialize in production ranging from HipHop / RnB / House / Rap / Alternative / Reggaeton. Basically looking to push forward with the team I have assembled to enlighten the hearts of others. Any advice?
    God Bless

    • Hey Dominic, it sounds amazing. Do you produce full time? It sounds as if you’re looking to start a label with these artists. Or, at the very least, help promote them to a more national or international level. It will be different for each artist, but, for you as producer, you may want to make connections with the local, regional christian label A&R managers and present your artists. If they get signed, you might get a nice advance and build a nice business for yourself. Advances aren’t as high as they used to be from the labels, but you could still develop some work for you and your team – to build momentum. I like how you mention your ‘team’. That’s truly what it is. And, it’s fun to do ministry and music together. I can give you more specific advice if you’d like – just email us at coaching@themusiccoaches.com

    • Dominic, sorry for the late response on this. Keep pushing forward in what you are doing. I recommend you sign up for our email list and you’ll get some great foundation building worksheets. It will really help you build a foundation for your production. Then, I would just keep getting better at your production craft.

      If I can help with anything specifically, just let me know!

      Eric

  3. Hey There, Really enjoyed this article, very helpful!(just wanted to share my band with ya)
    My name is Matt LeFait and Im the Lead Vocalist/Guitarist of a very fast up and coming Christian Rock/Worship Band from Quispamsis N.B. called Rekoncyle.
    Heres a quick updated Bio of us.
    Quispamsis N.B. Based Christian Rock/Worship Band Rekoncyle was started in 2009 and has really grown since then, weve shared the stage with notable Artist’s such as MANAFEST and are so blessed to have such a supporting fanbase!
    We have just recently released our first Full Length Album titled RESOLUTION (available on iTunes and Amazon) and can’t believe the response we’ve been getting!
    We’re really stoked about all the wonderful things going on and the doors God is opening for us!
    We currently have 3 Radio singles plus 1 Christmas Single (This Christmas Day) (Running out of air ,Redesign Inside and Turn Away)on rotation accross Canada(Including notable stations such as LIFE100.3 Ontario’s Superstation and Ignite107 in Winnipeg), Throuhout parts of the USA(With rave reviews!) (Including Notable stations such as Power 89.7 in Dallas Texas) and Breaking accross the Ocean into Spirit Radio in Ireland! (Weve also had Radio Interviews in Ireland as well as Parts of the U.S.A.)
    Rekoncyle has also recently been featured on CT20 (Canada Top 20) as the Nations “Homegrown Hit” and have charted on the “More Radio Canadian Music Report”top 5 on several Stations in Canada!
    We just released our First Offcial Music Video for our Hit Song “Running out of air” which you can watch here.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-zFfjnPcpg . If You would like to hear more of our music that can be done on our facebook bandpage http://www.facebook.com/rekoncyle (give us a LIKE if you could )as well as on our website http://www.rekoncyle.com .
    Thanks so much for Your time and God Bless.
    Matt.L

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  5. Very interesting article about the pro’s and con’s of signing with a Christian record label. Here is my comment/question. I am 68 years old and am not looking for a career as a performer nor do I want, at my age, to tour. I wrote some Christian country songs which will be on my first CD very soon. If the songs are well received, will a publisher be ok with just promoting the CD’s without my signing a contract to tour? My wife and I have a quiet life and I can’t go with a demanding round of venues. I want to be in control and keep my spiritual life simple.

    • Hi John,

      You and your wife will be fine. I recommend staying independent and staying local. Build your music ministry locally and see what God does from there. You own and control all of your songs. If you decide you want to record a known song, you simply contact the publisher of that song (go to HarryFox.com to find them) and make sure you obtain a mechanical license for them. I hope that answers your question. Please let me know if we can help you with anything else!

      Blessings,
      Eric

      PS – I recommend you sign up for our email list, you will get two free resources/worksheets to help you get a good foundation to your ministry started.

  6. Thanks Eric. Just wanted to point out, and you know already, it can be so tough finding out who owns copyright of some popular gospel songs. When you get a publishing company contact, they will tell you somebody else now has it, or they own only 40 percent, and you need to keep looking because you need 100 percent for permission. Some of the popular distribution services, BMI, ASCAP, and operations like Capital CMG are found to lack the songs you request, and they send you somewhere else. Capital is especially expensive, even to simply perform one of their songs in a modest paid venue. There are so many good old spirituals sung by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and others, and I can’t get to first base getting permission to either perform it in a small local venue, and forget about getting it on a CD. If anything, this frustration has made me want to just perform and record my own songs, all the while hoping I did not unintentionally add a word somebody else used in their copyrighted song long ago…Thus bringing a lawyer to my door to sue me. You know what I mean. perhaps, Iamventing here, anyway, I will check out HarryFox.com for some direction on some songs I would like to consider in the future. thanks. God bless. JJF

  7. Hi their Eric, my name is Daniel….
    Im a 24 year old living in the uk and looking to find work in a christian label. The area im wanting to achieve is mixing tracks by processing and using effects, setting microphones, and mastering. Im also a drummer and would be able to drum on tracks. Where would I start to find work in the studio in the music business for christian label?

  8. We have a Stellar Contemporary,Christian music group that only needs a label to listen to our recorded 1st CD “He’s Coming Back” to get the Lords’ Word sent to the world. I wonder in your travels if you are aware of a label that wants to change the world of Christian Music, with our group? Best advice: Listen to our arrangement of “Closer Walk With Thee” on U Tube, and Let me send a copy of the CD to the right people.

  9. Hello Eric I am a president of an organization called New life on Wheels Youth in Crisis Group Inc we also are starting a tour called the New Street Life Movement to fund this organization we are going to be working with a lot of Christian hip hop artists but God gave me an idea to parter up with a record label and help them promote their artists as well as bring new talent how what is your insite about this?

    • I think it’s a great idea. There are several national labels that would love to partner with you, I’m sure – Gotee Records comes to mind. The artist, LaCrae also. But there are tons of local and regional hip-hop rappers too you can connect with I’m sure. This may be the best place to start. They will also be the ones who can partner up with you and help you grow your movement from regional to national!

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  11. Hi Eric- I’m 23 years of age and have felt very strongly The Lord calling me to pursue music at a high platform. I’m just wondering what you would recommend to get started. I was considering Greenville college as I know many successes have come from there (Jars of Clay, Augustana, Paper Route) but I was wondering what steps you would honestly suggest. Is schooling even necessary? How would be the best way for me to focus on this with the fastest success?

    • Hi Hannah, sorry for the late reply. I don’t think schooling is necessary – that would further delay your career path. Now is the time to go for it. I would recommend two things. 1) Our Coaching program – 12 weeks of intense coaching moving you forward in your career and 2) PopGunEntertainment.com – they will help you grow and develop as a singer/songwriter and artist. Check Dustin and Lindsey out and tell them I sent you!

  12. Hi there! Love the advice you’ve given. I need some help. My genre is Christian Hip-Hop. (From which I’ve seen is apparently a harder market as far as promoting yourself.) Just needing some help because I feel like I’ve done all I know to do.

      • I have written about 10 songs in the past two years, and recorded them low budget, which is not a good idea. But for me, composing a body of inspirational ballads and Christian folk songs is my goal, and also establishing a style of my own. Better recording opportunities will come if the songs are done well. Recording is very expensive. Then promoting costs can also run quite a bit. I would suggest you work and re-work a body of songs, good songs with inspirational lyrics and a good sound you can establish as your own signature. Most of all….pray…..God will open doors. Best regards.

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  14. Hi my name is Shelley I am 34 yrs old and have been in the ministry and singing my whole life. I am wanting to do more and have been told by many ministers that God has shown them me singing and ministering worldwide but I don’t know where to start how do I get started to get a Christian label to notice and hear me?

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