Are Record Labels Still Relevant?

The infamous record labels. Before the growth of the digital age, record labels were necessary to get onto the route to stardom. They’d invest into an artist, helping them reach a wider scope of audiences; at that time, importantly, not very much else was around to help a musician. Fast forward to today. We are very much in the midst of the digital age. Are record labels still the only route to stardom? Are they, in any way, evolving with the ever-changing times? Which then begs the question, are record labels still relevant?

recording desk

The DIY era

The development of technology has impacted the music industry in many ways. We’re in the era of SoundCloud, Social Media, Pro Tools and Logic Pro. Being an artist, as a result, has become a DIY process. Social Media platforms, such as Twitter and YouTube, have enabled musicians to share, promote and become known without any other help. Technology, such as better equipped computers and laptops and even better, more affordable, home studio equipment etc., are helping artists to record and publish albums themselves. The DIY era has paved an alternative route to stardom, and one which doesn’t necessarily involve help from labels.

Are there still any benefits to record labels?

Granted, despite the ever-increasing DIY approach and attitude, record labels do – whether independent or major – have the most experience of the music industry. It is their industry after all. They also have access to the top producers etc., meaning that music produced with them does arguably lead to better sounding music. Though, we should mention, this can lead to the squaring off of the artist. With the DIY approach, your music does stay yours, and 100% yours.

Record labels can also help in giving advice to artists about which platforms, such as Spotify or iTunes, they should release their music through, providing a relevant strategy. Not to mention they can also get an artists music on them, saving the musician both time and money. Despite this, again it is not impossible for an artist to adopt and take this approach themselves, although it would involve a lot more of both their own time and money.

Do artists want record deals?

Do Artists still want record deals? Yes, they do. Granted, you can always find some musicians who don’t, but it’s hard to ignore that there is still a strong desire among artists of getting one, as it is often perceived as an achievement for doing so. Even though nowadays there is the ability to record, publish and even distribute without having to go through the label route, it’s still hard to shake off the idea that you’ve not made it without one.

So, are they still relevant?

While the DIY era still evolves, and record labels are tying to evolve with it, it is nowadays possible to perform all that previously would have been offered and done by a label yourself. In answering the question are record labels still relevant today; it seems apparent that while they are no longer necessarily needed for an artist to reach success, the distinction and recognition that one brings is still relevant and valued.


Also published on Medium.