Now, if you have read all the information in this blog, concerning recording contracts and record labels, you may or may not have posed the following question to yourself- Why not act like my own record label and promote and distribute myself? You should not feel alone in asking yourself that question as many other artists are doing the same and some are even in the process of doing just that- recording and distributing themselves!.

This trend expands even into the hollywood circles as artists such as Joss Stone, has voluntarily left their recording contract to record independently. Also, underground artists such as Immortal Technique, continue to have a successful music career. The growth of the internet and online/viral communication has rendered getting your music and message heard easier than ever before. And many artists, unlike in the past, are starting to see that a record deal or a recording contract is not the only way to thrive in the music industry. In previous articles such as , and , I have explained how to distribute and copyright your music on your own as an up & coming artist. This article goes a little more in-depth as we examine the actual “pros & cons” of both directions. Only when you know the benefits and disadvantages of both, then and only then, can you make an informed decision as to the direction you will like your music career to go.

Mainstream (with recording contract)


1). Worldwide exposure to your music

2). Increased fan base

3). More chances for monetary gain (concerts,increased album sales etc.)

4). Greater royalties from increased marketing of your music.

5). Upfront costs time,music videos,CD packaging etc. taken cared of by label.


1). Label takes a large percentage of you income (going rate is 10% off retail value of album meaning $1 for every $10 album of yours sold)

2). Lack of creative freedom (some artists may record an entire album only to have it not released by the label eg. Nas’s , album- The Lost Tapes 2.

3). Label’s may own the master recordings/rights to your music unless otherwise stated in your contract.

4). Failure to sell a specific number of albums can cause you to lose your recording contract and all your hard work (master recordings) and hence start all over again.

5). Cross-Collateralization can mean that you may see very little of your royalties unless otherwise stated in your contract.

Underground (without contract)


1). 100% profits goes to you.

2). 100% of any royalties also stays in your hands.

3). Full creative control of your music.

4). Due to your ownership of the master recordings of your music, you can use your work for commercial gain as you see fit.

5). Freedom to expand into various genres or types of music/sound – not limited to a specific market.


1). Fan base may not be as wide/large due to lack of the marketing power or resources available to record labels.

2). Though economic gain is 100% yours, there is the possibility of more economic gain as a signed artist due to the above stated marketing power behind the signed artist from their label.

3). Opportunities for monetary gain from big performances such as Grammy shows and so on may be limited.

4). Royalties may be higher if marketing of your music has more monetary forces behind it.

5). All costs are footed by the artist himself unless sponsorship is otherwise gained

END NOTE: Though the cons on the part of the underground artist may seem greater on the financial aspect of things, there are always ways to get around these problems. The following articles that were previously posted should help you on your way to having a successful independent music career.

Copyright your own music and start getting your royalties

Distribute your music independently

Get sponsorship for your music

Get gigs

Also, having a contract does not mean that you will lose the majority of your earnings as an artist. The following articles, previously posted, present some solutions to the cons listed under having a mainstream career.

Keep your master recordings and stop Cross-Collateralization

Understand how your label works

Understand how your royalties work and who gets what

Written by Tamika Simon