There used to be a time, not so long ago, when every newbie musician dreamed of securing a record deal and enjoying the debauched lifestyle that accommodated it. Those that were not business savvy quite often ended up broke, despite being best-selling international artists. They also had no control over their image, their music and the release schedule for their albums.
These days, thanks to changes in the industry that started to take shape back in the early days of MySpace and especially with the arrival of broadband, artists are staying away from big labels in droves. It's no longer necessary to sign to a major label to have a worldwide presence thanks to all of the resources that are now available on the internet. It's hard work and you have to wear numerous hats, but at the end of the day you are the one reaping the rewards.
I've been lucky enough to hear first hand how bands such as Marillion and Radiohead are accomplishing this and making waves around the industry with their releases. OK, I hear you say, these bands were signed to major labels in their early years and enjoyed international success, so they were already well-known. But the fact is that even Marillion has said that they can not get played on mainstream radio stations and are using creative means to survive in a very tough industry where many of their contemporaries have fallen by the way. Both Marillion and Radiohead have self-released their recent albums and both are fighting for more fairness within the industry.
Many new artists are following the lead of these groundbreaking bands in order to achieve independent success and make money from their music. Take newcomers The Lysergic Suite – their debut EP was self-released, they are touring relentlessly to build up their fan base and their forthcoming album is self-funded so that they will be the ones to reap the rewards of all their hard work at the end of the day. More importantly, they get the final say over every aspect of their careers.
Throughout the early days of our careers, myself and many friends in the industry spent years tied into label deals where we were not allowed to gig, release music or get a haircut without the label said it was OK to do so. We also could not use our own songs for a number of years after the deals expired – not good.
It may suit some people to live this lifestyle in exchange for the potential big rewards on offer but it's not the only way these days and personally I would much sooner self-release and retain the rights to my music. It is possible to make a comfortable living working this way, as many musicians are continuously proving. Keep checking back on our articles for more tips on how you can raise your profile through various means, online and offline, to provide you with a full-time income from your music.