Deal or No Deal: Independent artists vs signed artists

July 17, 2020

The modern music industry is changing. Gone are the days of sending out hundreds of demos in the hope of catching the ear of a scout. Big record labels still exist and continue to sign successful musicians. However, we must acknowledge the ways in which online platforms such as social media and streaming services have all made it easier for artists to strike out by themselves. If you’re unsure whether to go it alone or continue to strive for that record deal, read on to learn about the flip-sides of both routes.


Unsigned: The benefits of being independent 

Creative freedom 

Staying independent means that you have complete control over your creative development. Whether you want to express an opinion, switch up your genre, or experiment with new sounds, you’re free to do whatever you please. When you sign up to a label, the opinions of others come into play – and you might not always agree with them. 

Scottish musician Gerry Cinnamon is an excellent example of an independent artist that values his creative freedom over corporate-driven profits: “If I had that stuff maybe it would have been different – but then I wouldn’t have any ownership over my own stuff.” 

Earn more (potentially) 

Signing up to a label means that more people are involved in the making, marketing, and distribution of your music. Of course, this can be a good thing – it all helps in getting your audience to a wider audience. But remember, each hand getting involved will take a piece of the pie, meaning that ultimately, you’ll likely earn less yourself for your own music. 

We’re not saying that going independent is going to make you rich (according to the ONS, the average income of a UK musician is around £23,000), but you will reap the full rewards of your music, which is satisfying regardless of the amount. Moreover, it’s worth noting the current upward trend in independent artists’ income; a recent study found that they jumped by as much as 35% between 2018 and 2019, owing largely to social media and other online platforms. 

Own your own copyright 

Associated to your earnings is owning the copyright to your music. A common element of a record deal is signing away (at least some of) the rights to your music. This means that the label has greater power to determine who profits from your music and how it’s used. Aside from questions around royalties, you might find that your music is being put towards a purpose that you don’t agree with – like being played at a Donald Trump campaign rally

Deal-breaker: The benefits of being signed 

More resources 

Regardless of how well you promote your own music, it’s highly unlikely that you can compete with the well-oiled machine that is the corporate music industry. Graphic designers, social media teams, PR, and event organisers make the production of your album slick and more likely to be picked up by a global audience (if that’s what you’re aiming for). 

Bigger network 

Despite the democratising effects of the Internet, who you know (in real life) is still a big part of the music industry. Relationships with the right people can secure better deals, forge collaborations, and help you get on the bill at gigs and festivals. When you’re under a label, you’ll benefit from a large network of industry professionals, who will work to boost your profile. 


It might sound a little old school, but record labels still provide a degree of ‘clout’ to artists. Any organisation dealing with an established record label knows what to expect, and is willing to pay more for the privilege. Plus, whether we’re talking about licensing, publishing deals, or playing at larger venues, labels are more likely to secure an agreement – the fact that they represent multiple artists is a huge bargaining chip. 


Deciding on whether to go solo or aim for a record deal depends on your ambitions. If you value creative freedom over anything else in your music, then stick to the independent route. If you want to increase your chances of going global, on the other hand, signing with a record label offers you the best chance. 

Signed or unsigned, choose a recording studio that will help you to refine your sound. Kore Studios is equipped with both the latest recording kit alongside an expansive collection of vintage technology, offering you the maximum flexibility in your recording options. Get in touch to discuss your requirements and book in a slot.