Years ago I read reading an article in Billboard magazine about songwriter / producer David Foster.
He talked about the stages one's career goes through. He summarized it as “who's David Foster”, “get me David Foster”, “get me the next David Foster”, and “who's David Foster”. I do not think Mr. Foster has to worry about arriving at stage four.
The music industry has changed dramatically since I read that article back in the 1980's.
But for those of us who are still at stage one of the cycle, the changes have been very good.
It's no longer necessary to bang at the door of the gatekeepers expecting to gain admission. Pinning all of one's hopes on signing the big recording or publishing contract.
Digital technology and the Web have levied the playing field considerably. And while an unsigned artist will not necessarily have the resources that major label artists have access to, they can find innovative ways to be successful on their own terms.
According to Internet World Stats, there are more than 2 billion internet users worldwide! And almost 800 million of those users are on Facebook. I'm willing to bet that those users do more than check their emails and pay their bills online. Imagine forming a relationship with 10,000 of those people or 30,000, or maybe 100,000?
One great advantage of not being signed to a major label, is that you do not have the tremendous overhead to contend with. Where you might find yourself in a situation of selling lots of records, but still owed the record company money, because of the advances and production and marketing costs which they will recoup.
An independent artist has the ability to be more profitable with fewer sales for the precisely the reason of the reduced overhead. Fewer fingers in the pie, means more money for the independent artist.
Of course the trade off in resources means that an independent artist needs to learn about marketing and promotion, and several other tasks that a major label would do for you.
You may need to be your own accountant, and business manager, outsourcing anything that you do not feel comfortable doing.
You may not achieve the career heights of a David Foster, and experience the career cycle that he spoke of. We would probably all love to have someone trying to find the next us.
But if you're in this business because you love music and the creative process as opposed to the idea of fame and fortune, and if you're hardworking and determined, you can define the stages of your career according to your own terms and not those of the gatekeepers.
[FYI: Here's the link for Internet World Stats http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats2.htm ]