Record Label Deals vs. Distribution Deals

Edgel Groves began his career as a musician, playing with the band Sun Domingo in the 2000s and went on to form a booking agency and management company at the end of the decade. Groves is senior manager of A&R for SoundCloud.

Record deals typically involve the label paying for the master recordings of your music. Even if you’re making the music at home, a label’s interest is to own the masters, or have ownership in the masters of your music, for an extended period of time. It’s their job to solicit that music and make their money back make their investment back and then help you become a star. They also have tons of resources. The big ones have large staff. They work with radio. They work with every different cog in the wheel in the industry and they can help open a lot of doors.

Distributors used to be physical only, before streaming and all this other stuff happened. Now distributors actually get you into Spotify and they get you into Apple Music and Pandora and all the big stores around the world. Their job is to have those relationships.

If you want to be the one in a 100 million pop star that breaks every five or 10 years, you can take the major label route, which I think is a great route for a lot of artists. But, we live in an age now where you don’t have to have the major labels anymore. It used to be, if you didn’t sign to a major, or a subsidiary of a major, you were just an independent artist and, if you weren’t out touring 300 days a year selling music in the back of your van, you weren’t going to be able to make a living doing it. That has changed. You can sit at home with no record deal and no team around you and you can make great music and release it from the comfort of your bedroom and make a fortune– not only a living, but a fortune.

What you need to consider is what kind of artist you want to be. Do you want to placate to the machine and have a team around you and risk, potentially, having your art be scrutinized by a large team of people for larger budgets and a bigger chance to be a bigger star? Or, do you want to keep all the control, stay as creative as you want, have nobody over your shoulder and do all the work yourself and build your own team? Neither one is better than the other.