#MusicBrainer: Record Labels – What Role Do They Play In The Music Industry?

I am sure you have had a thought on who makes the decision about what music gets played? You might have also wondered why only certain artists get played and have their music sold in major digital and retail stores.

Well I am sure you questions will meet it’s answers, as I share with you some vital roles Record Labels play in the music industry, and how these roles affect an artistes career.

Also Read: 8 Things You Should Know About Music Publishing.

So What Are Record Labels.

Generally, Record Labels are brands or companies that market music. Recording companies perform variety of functions including music publishing, artist management, music production, new artist recruitment, music promotion among others.

However, a Record Label takes on an artist for a certain period of time or a certain number of recordings. Depending on the contract agreement between the both parties.

On a wider scale, there are just two major choices of record labels, these are the major record labels and the independent record labels. Most of the record labels in Nigeria and Africa fall under the category of the independent record labels. Although a few African artists have penned agreements with the Major Record Labels.

Now let’s take a look at these two recording companies;

The Major Record Labels are “International” companies often under an umbrella called a “Music Group”. They operate their own distribution and publishing companies. And Yes they are “Heavily funded” and therefore have big budgets for marketing , production and more. They also have a large network of connections and influence in the music industry.

There just five major record labels. The big five are Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Group, Warner Brothers and BMG entertainment. 

Some of these big five labels have set up smaller divisions in Africa, examples are Sony Music West Africa, Universal Music Group Nigeria among others.

Also Read: 4 ways to Get The Best Exposure For Your Album Or E.P Release.

Some African and Nigerian artiste signed under these big five are

  1. Wurld (Signed under Universal Music Group)
  2. Vanessa Mdee (Signed Under Universal Music Group )
  3. Stonebwoy (Signed Under Universal Music Group)
  4. Davido (Signed under Sony)
  5. Tiwa Savage (Motown, under Universal Music)
  6. T-classic (Signed Under Universal Music)

These major record labels also own “sublabels” that specialise in music publishing, recording and promotion.

Recently, Universal Music Group launched Def Jam Recordings in Africa and signed some influential African talents from Nigeria and South Africa, the list includes; Vector, Larry Gaga, Casper Nyovest, Nasty C, Tellaman among others.

Now to the Independent Labels – these are small companies or brands that market music, and perform other variety of functions such as music publishing, artiste management, music production among other roles.

They are however not big and influential as the major record labels. Independent record labels at most times do not operate their own distribution and publishing companies. Instead they work with publishing companies owned by some of the major labels.

There are however several factors worth considering when determining the best record label. But in my opinion I feel the independent or local labels are beneficial to an artiste because

1. There is trust and close working relationship, with the label team and the artiste.(Unlike with the major labels).

2. When an independent label signs you they do it because they love your music. They are less likely to insist on changes to your sound or image than major companies.

3.With a local or independent label you are mostly likely toown rights of your music and materials.

However, the main draw back with independent labels is the lack of enough fund (Money nor too plenty like that). So they focus on artists promotion turn by turn. With this method of rotation, the artiste gets a short stint of focus by the labels and before it gets to his turn again, the public most have lost interest in his sound.

This is unlike the case of the major labels that are willing to spend much on you, but limiting your creative control as an artist. This was alleged to be the cause of the scuffle between Davido and Sony music management, who allegedly restricted Davido from releasing music indiscriminately.

Also Read: Artistes! See Why Your Current Music Promotion Strategies Aren’t Working For You.

Now What Roles Do They Play?

I have shared a bit on some of the roles record labels play already, but let’s look at some other important roles they play in an artist’s career and in the music industry.

1. Record labels help fund your music career.

Like I said before music career costs money. Recording, marketing, advertising, touring, and promotion cost a lot. So you definitely need a record label to help fund your career. However, you could go solo as an artist like Falz and Ed sheeran, but you would still need a competent team and money to achieve great results.

2. Record Labels Help With Music Distribution.

Labels can help you with both digital and physical music distribution. With this you can get your release on all major streaming platforms and stores. You then make sales from your music, without going through any hassle your label gets it down for you.

3. Artist & Repertoire Is Sorted.

An A&R representative is assigned by a record label to source for talents, over see the music recording and help with marketing and promotion. While the labels benefit from A&R signing artists that will make a good financial return on investment. The Artists benefits from the A&R handling his recording process and promoting his music.

4. Record Labels Help With An Effective Music Promotion.

Labels already have the connections to get your music the best publicity, media attention, advertising, radio airplay and more. They know who to call when they need to draw attention to a new artiste or a new release.

Final Thoughts.

What is Undoubtedly true is that record labels play a big role in the success of an Artist’s career and the Music Industry at large. Record labels deserve a big kudos for the work they take on.

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