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The advantages of a record label for upcoming bands

Virtually every budding band can record and distribute their music digitally onto streaming services. Who needs a record label?


Logo for Creation Records

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Creation Records. The legendary, infamous independent record label was founded in 1983 by Alan McGee, Dick Green and Joe Foster with its name derived from 1960s band The Creation.

For sixteen years, until its demise in 1999, Creation flew spectacularly high, flirted with the twin imposters of triumph and defeat and changed the music world forever. Even those with a passing knowledge of independent music will have heard of some of their bands. To an indie post punk/shoegaze/electronica label such as Blowtorch Records, a roll call which includes The Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits, The House Of Love and Oasis is the mother lode.

Until just after the millennium, signing to a record label was essential for young bands who aspired to music industry success. This model was brutally shattered by the Internet, MySpace and an uppity Sheffield band called The Arctic Monkeys. Although they soon signed to Domino Records, the digital, word of mouth model they helped to initiate was inexorably underway.

We've talked before about the pros and cons of the streaming model, and Spotify in particular. No need to go there again but it raises an interesting question: after nearly 25 years of streaming are record labels still relevant?

Of course we say yes! But is that justified?

Well here's five objective advantages the right record label can provide to young bands:

1. Financial support: A record label can provide financial support to young bands by providing them with funds for recording, marketing, and touring. Especially important for bands starting out that initially may not have the resources to self-fund these activities.

2. Promotion and marketing: Record companies have experience and resources to promote and market new bands to a wider audience. This can include creating promotional materials, securing press coverage and organising tours and live shows.

3. Industry connections: Labels have established connections with music industry professionals, such as booking agents, music supervisors, and radio promoters. These can help upcoming bands get their music heard by a wider audience and secure more opportunities for exposure and growth.

4. Expertise and guidance: Record labels can offer expertise and guidance on various aspects of the music industry, including songwriting, production and publishing. This can help bands improve their craft, make better-informed decisions as they navigate the industry and potentially make some money.

5. Community: For us, this final point is dead important. Record labels tend to take on artists in similar genres. It's rare to find country and doom metal on the same label for example and it tends not to work - as evidenced by The Stone Roses unlikely signing to the hard rock/metal leaning Revolver Records. Find a like minded label and see if you can be part of something bigger.

Overall, the right label can provide young bands with the resources, connections and expertise they need to develop their careers and reach a wider audience. It definitely needs the band's buy in and commitment as well - the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

Bear in mind that this doesn't necessarily involve 'signing' to a label. That notion is somewhat outdated now. We don't have formal contracts with any of the bands who are 'on' our label; and we also help out and promote many bands who have no affiliation to Blowtorch at all.

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