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Do labels still matter in 2023 for electronic music?

With more and more tools to release music independently, I’ve been wondering if labels still matter in 2023. Here are some of my conclusions:

4 THOUGHTS FROM ME

1. Focus on the music while they focus on the marketing. One of the biggest benefits of signing to a label is the ability to get marketing assets from labels instead of having to do them yourself. In addition to doing the cover photos, Instagram stories, Spotify canvas, and more, labels also do a lot of promotion behind the scene. For example, some labels invest heavily in sending your song to curators and DJs for radio plays, which is something that is hard to get even when you’re growing as a musician and sometimes more important than your own promotion on your socials. The most important part of this is that the more they do, the less you’ll have to do and spend, and this means more time and resources to produce other songs as marketing tasks, like making these cover photos, Instagram stories, and promo blasts is a pain, and they take a lot of time. At the same time, not all labels do this by default, so you need to find labels that do these things for you so you can take advantage of them. The best way to find out if they offer what you’re looking for in terms of marketing is by asking your friends who have signed with these labels about their experience with the label, or researching their releases and see if you can notice any patterns that could indicate that they consistently achieve what you’re looking for. Feel free to contact me if you need guidance, by the way.

2. Use labels as a way to expand your reach. At the same time that doing your own personal promo is important for you to solidify your own presence with your followers, labels are heavily important because their activities help you expand your reach and bring in new followers to your audience. With labels, you’ll have three options: (1) once you find a label you love and delivers what you want, keep on releasing only with them and they will likely value you and put more effort into your releases, or (2) find multiple labels that you love and release sporadically with each so you get a bit of each audience. Or, my favorite, (3) find your home label, with whom you’ll release most of your songs, but also release some with others so you can get the value from the home label, but also grow by exposing yourself to other label’s audiences as well. That’s another reason why I still value and recommend releasing with labels. Especially as you’re growing, they add more than what they will take (royalties) as more reach can lead you to more gigs and better opportunities in the future.

3. Test the quality of your songs with A&R reactions. Getting positive feedback doesn’t mean that your song fits a label or a trend in the market, and that’s another thing that labels help you understand. Even though your song can be good to some people, it can be a bit dated for what the label is looking for as they are always looking for new, fresh, and unique songs. Therefore, when you get rejected, or accepted by a label, it implicitly tells you that ‘this is something we’re not looking for at the moment’, or the opposite and that can help you better understand if your genre is still trending, which is important if you’re aiming high with numbers. In addition, I once had a song that many friends loved, but that was rejected by more than 5 labels, so I trashed the song. If 5 people who constantly look at new songs didn’t like what I had, then that was a message to me that I needed to do a better job, or maybe just not produce in that genre anymore. Therefore, labels can be a great way to do a market test of your songs and understand a bit about the quality of your songs and also the trends of your niche. One important disclaimer though… labels do make mistakes, so don’t take a comment from one label as the truth, even from multiple labels. They are hints, not truths, and your song can still perform if self-released, but this is definitely a bad sign if multiple people in the industry don’t like your song.

4. Stop thinking about money when signing with labels. The benefits of self-release are to keep all the rights and full control over your release and royalties, but is it better to have 100% of 20k streams or 50% of 50k streams? Sometimes, having all the support from a label will generate more than if you self-released it, so you’re probably better off with a label than self-releasing. Second, if you’re looking to labels, or music in general, as a way to make money, you’re not producing with the right reasons in your mind. Focus on building an audience and exposure, and that will bring you money later on, but if you focus on royalties too early on, you’ll likely be depriving yourself of many good things. Recently, a producer who has been producing for 2 years mentioned that he was advised not to sign with any labels that offer less than 40% of royalties, and that is terrible advice because it is telling the producer to focus on royalties rather than making good songs, building an audience and the joy of getting a song signed. Heck, I’ve signed to a MAJOR LABEL once and it was 10% of royalties, but I was thrilled. Therefore, STOP focusing on royalties and focus on what will solidify you as an artist, which is what will eventually make you some royalties.

In the end, labels still do matter in 2023, especially when you’re developing as a producer because of all that has been mentioned. However, if you already have a big audience that loves your songs, self-releasing can be the way to go as it generates more royalties and you don’t have to deal with labels, which can be stressful. Even then, having one or two releases on labels can still help you further expand your reach and, consequently, expand your audience, which can further benefit your self-releases.

1 QUESTION FOR YOU

When should you consider not signing with labels?
1. If you want full control of the release, like doing the cover art or setting up the release date, then you’re likely better self-releasing. Some labels, if you ask them, allow you to do this, so it’s another thing to research.
2. If you don’t want to deal with A&Rs, which often can be stressful due to constant changes requests, or rejections, self-release can be the way to go. However, just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you don’t need to make sure your songs are top-notch to succeed, so make sure to get feedback.
3. If you’re still not sure if your songs are up to label standards, I’d suggest asking for feedback FIRST before submitting them to labels. Feedback can give you a better hint of how the public feel about your song, and often provide constructive steps to make your songs better.

Remember though… being afraid of being rejected should NOT be a reason to send your songs to labels. Therefore, don’t let these three reasons cover a possible fear of sending your songs.

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Leo Lauretti

Leo Lauretti

Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Leo Lauretti has been producing since 2013. With releases on SONY Music, Armada, Enhanced Music, Leo Lauretti accumulates multiple supports from artists like Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Cosmic Gate, Nicky Romero, and many others all over the world.

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