Technology and the use of social media has undoubtedly evolved the business of the music industry as there are now more platforms to share your own music on and more streams of revenue to make money off of. However, artists continue to face the big question: do I sign a deal or do I remain independent?
The downsides to having a major deal have already been exposed to the masses through media; see: Lil Wayne and Cash Money's seemingly never-ending legal battle over Tha Carter V or Remy Ma clowning Nicki Minaj on her head-spinning diss track "ShETHER":
"And stop talkin' numbers, you signed a 360 deal / Through Young Money, through Cash Money, through Republic / Which means your money go through five niggas before you touch it / Any videos, promotions come out of your budget / Endorsements, tour and merchandise, they finger-fuck it / You make, like, 35 cents off of each ducat / I own my masters, bitch, independent."
When you see artists enduring multimillion-dollar lawsuits because of mishandled or misunderstood deals as independent artists like Chance the Rapper achieve major success without one, it makes you wonder: Why continue to sign in the first place?
Despite the growing opportunities for artists to make it on their own, we still see up-and-comers like 21 Savage and Cardi B take deals with major labels Epic and Atlantic, respectively.
When Angie Martinez asked Cardi B about what it felt like having a “machine behind you,” the rapper said, “I battle with it. Sometimes I even feel bad for independent artists because it’s hard for them to get on the radio. On top of that, people always want to make you uncredible because you’re not signed or people don’t want to take you serious.”
Rapper Casey Veggies—who dropped five digital mixtapes and one LP on the independent Peas and Carrots before releasing his debut album under Epic—echoed the sentiment when REVOLT TV asked him why artists are still signing on dotted lines.
“I think a lot of people aspire to be independent," Veggies said. "But at the same time, if you want to be a star and you feel like your music is for the whole world, it’s kind of difficult to do it without a machine behind you.”
He added, “It's always that next level that is hard to reach because it’s a lot of money that goes into it and you can’t compete with millions of dollars.”
To no surprise, money will always be the reason why you’ll continue to see artists signing major deals. Who can argue with cash up front and the big budgets that will go into your marketing?
However, Casey said it best when he explained, “I think every artist should choose a pathway according to whatever they feel like their strong points are or whatever they feel like they want out of it."
He continued, "Every artist wants different things out of music or out of the game. Some artists want fame, some artists want just to deliver great music, some artists want to be the biggest artist, some artists are fine just having their one thousand fans, some artists want millions and trillions of fans.”
When asked about his personal experience, Veggies said, “I’ve grinded independently and I’ve grinded with a label and I think it all just taught me to be hands-on. Regardless, it taught me no matter what you got, always work for you as if nobody is working for you.”
I believe the question for new artists isn’t “should I sign?,” but “what kind of music artist do I want to be?”