Do Artists Really Need Major Labels?

Over the holidays Chance The Rapper (@ChanceTheRapper) and the folks over at DJ Booth (@DJBooth) got into an interesting exchange on Twitter over the success of independent artist vs. recording artist under major record labels. The debate came shortly after Carl Chery, head of Hip Hop/R&B Programming at Apple, appeared on Everyday Struggle and claimed Chance The Rapper’s success to be “misleading” and “unrealistic”. Peep the exchange below along with the recent Everyday Struggle episode.

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After some thought, I couldn’t help but ask the decade old question…”Do recording artists really NEED major record labels?” While industry insiders like Carl believe so, I would argue that Chance’s stance may serve as a revolutionary theory to new artists. His breakout success stunned the music industry after he inked the exclusive half a mil deal with Apple without the help of a major record label. Truth is, with the new wave of digital streaming, artists are being found and featured on hundreds of popular streaming services through playlists and YouTube channels. Don’t believe me? Just look at Chance…Macklemore…Childish Gambino…6Lack…and the lists goes on. All artist who received massive success with the help of curated playlists. Not to mention the plethora of entertainment personalities that came from YouTube (DJ Akademiks) and reality TV (ahem…Cardi B).

Unfortunately, the narrative that labels help “promote” artists still plagues the industry and many new artists fall victim to the hustle. But if TLC and NWA has taught us anything, remember young grasshopper…YOU GOTTA PAY THAT MONEY BACK. It’s not yours to keep and you can bet that the label will come out on top in the deal 10/10 times. And with YouTube and Reality TV stars in the mix, artists are probably expected to already have a following before they even get the deal (again look at Cardi B for reference). From a marketing budget perspective, K. Michelle and Big K.R.I.T already exposed their labels for seemingly giving them a trash budget and funded projects on their own. So what’s the point of a label? If its not to promote, provide real funding, or create content, the value could simply be the resources. But for creators who are comfortable taking charge of their destiny we suggest you find the right look at the right place at the right time and keep your artistic freedom. The key is to take Chance’s advice and be patient, be smart, be strategic.

Until creators hop on their Joe Budden move and realize their own power, the narrative of the major label will continue to be pushed and labels will have the the power to creatively enslave their artists.

Drop some comments below and let us know where you stand!

One thought on “Do Artists Really Need Major Labels?

  1. This question is loaded with too many underlying variables to be so black and white, yes or no, or good or bad. It all depends on the goals of the artist. what stage are you in your music career. If your an aspiring talented artist, then perhaps a major label pipe dream deal isn’t necessary. If your all about the money and not the art, then kill yourself some record deals while making them big old booty’s shake. Obviously, in today’s climate, you’d have to gain a notable amount followers before investors or labels would even make a fist to knock.


    Chance is a real artist. Meaning, basically, that if he became a billionaire tomorrow, he would most likely still record and release art. Classic art painting a picture of his experiences and views are needed in 2018.

    If your art doesn’t add a needed view to a particular idea or lack there of, then sign those deal and get yo money honey!

    It totally depends on the path one wishes to travel. Artists wishing to be the next Chance have to take a hard look in the mirror and evaluate their talent level.

    Like the current King of Hip Hop said, “all that fake shit is here today and gone tomorrow. Only the real
    will last.

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