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Self-releasing music – the big pros and cons

Vinyl record store

If you have ever tried to make it in the music industry, you will already have a good idea of just how difficult it can be to find that all-important break. Traditionally, many wannabe singers and bands would try to find themselves an agent who would represent them. This agent would then help them to land a record deal. Once the deal was in place, the record label would work with the band on their first album, which they would then release on the label. Sometimes, these kinds of record deals would span for one, two, or even three records.

However, now that a lot of people are making their own music on computers at home and using online platforms, a lot more musicians are starting to release their own music themselves. Many people now realize that there is no need for an agent or a record label, as it can all be done on your own.

Of course, as with anything there are a few pros and cons involved with releasing your own music. You will need to carefully consider all of these to figure out which is the best option for you. Take a read through the following to see whether it will be worth self-releasing your music, or if you might be better off sticking to the traditional path.

Pro: You keep all the rights

One of the big benefits of self-releasing all of your music is that you get to keep all of the rights to it yourself. You won’t need to get any lawyers involved to clarify anything or make you sign any confusing contracts. And that means there is no risk of signing away all of your music to a record label to use as they please. Plus, there is no risk of you ending up trapped in a deal that requires you to keep on churning an album out every year even when you don’t want to. How your music is used and how much people have to pay you for it is left completely up to you. And that is how most musicians like to keep things!

Con: You have to pay for everything yourself

When you do self-release music, you will need to ensure you can cover all of the costs yourselves. That includes recording expenses, CD duplication, and marketing and promotion. This wouldn’t be an issue if you did find a record label as they would cover all of these costs for you. If you aren’t too careful and do decide to self-release, you could find that you end up racking a lot of expenses. You will then need to make sure that you sell enough music to cover the costs. If not, then your music venture will have cost you money rather than made you a profit.

Pro: You get to keep all the profits

At least if you do make some profit from your self-released music you can keep all the money yourself. That won’t happen when you work closely with an agent and a record label as they will each take a cut themselves. In fact, some record labels take such a large cut that some of the big-name musicians who seem to be a huge success at the minute might not actually be making quite as much money as you think. However, the flip side is that working with a record label and an agent will be the best way to get your music out there and heard by as many people as possible, so there is a bigger chance of actually making some money from your project. Of course, just how much money you make could be dependent on the record label you decide to go through.

Con: You won’t know any marketers or promoters

As I’ve previously mentioned, you will be one your own when it comes to all the marketing and promo for any music that you self-release. A record label will have an entire marketing and PR department that will be able to work wonders to push your upcoming record into the attention of the public, but that won’t be the case when you are doing everything on your own. If you have never done any marketing before, then you might be a bit overwhelmed by everything you need to do. However, it is never quite as hard as you might think. Thanks to social media, you can now do a lot of free marketing that reaches a surprising number of people. If they like what they hear then your music could be shared even further.

Pro: You won’t face any limitations

Once you sign up for a record deal, you will be faced with a few limitations. These will largely depend on the record company you go with, and they will all have various regulations and stipulations that you need to follow once you sign to them. Some of these can be quite oppressive. For instance, you might sign up for a minimum time, such as five years, and will be required to release new music every year for that five-year period. Don’t like the sound of these kinds of limitations? If not, then you will be better off self-releasing. Then you can do exactly what you want with your music.

Con: It’s a huge learning curve

No one said that releasing your own music would be easy. For many musicians who have no experience of the music industry, it can end up being a huge learning curve for them. It can be a testing and often frustrating journey at times, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to make your self-released music a success. Plenty of people have done it! You just need to be ready and prepared to put in a lot of hard work and effort. The more motivated you are then the more likely you are to make a success of it.

So, do you think you should self-release or find a record label for your music?

Photograph by Carol Malmeida

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