Garnish Music Production School | Los Angeles

Major Labels Vs. Independent Labels


“Failure isn’t failing, failure is never trying.” 


Major Labels Structure (Chapter 11)

        -Why a major label? 

Benefits: Large advances, marketing budgets, radio promotion, **relationships**

  • Radio Promo: Easy 100K per single
  • Video Production 50K to 500K+ per video (evolving)
  • Tour support
  • Publicity
  • Marketing

***They can “push the button”***


Cons: Easy for an artist to lose attention (especially up and coming), not always in touch with pulse of musical trends, they can “make” or “break” an artist


-Why an independent label? (Usually absorbed by a major when successful)

-Examples: (USA) Arista, Geffen, Sire / (UK) Island, Chrysalis, Virgin


  • Spinnin’ Records. Spinnin’ Records is a Dutch record label, founded in 1999 by Eelko van Kooten and Roger de Graaf. In September 2017, Warner Music Group acquired Spinnin’ for over $100 million
  • Sony Music Entertainment and Ultra Music (2013) — the EDM-focused record label, publishing house, management company and media platform owned and operated by Patrick Moxey —  have announced a globe-spanning strategic partnership between the two companies. As part of the deal Moxey was appointed to the newly-created position of president, electronic music for Sony Music and will report to Sony Music CEO Doug Morris.
  • Under the agreement, “covering A&R, distribution, international repertoire and more,” Sony’s electronic artists will be available for inclusion on Ultra’s various compilation series, while Sony will avail itself of Empire Artist Management, Ultra Music’s artist management wing. In addition, Sony and Ultra will “share resources to promote and market Ultra’s artists worldwide.”
  • Sony Music will distribute Ultra releases  via RED in the U.S. and Sony Music Canada, while outside North America, Sony Music International and Ultra will share resources to promote and market Ultra’s artists worldwide. Ultra Music will help promote and market Sony Music artists in the U.S. and Canada on a project-by-project basis.
  • Technology (distribution, production) has evened out the playing field with majors
  • -Companies like Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA) offers many functions majors usually have such as: marketing, product tie-ins, worldwide distribution, music licensing


Benefits: Attention to artists, Build an artists career over time, regional strength, genre driven (as mentioned above)


Cons: Don’t always have heavy cash on hand, limited reach, limited budgets


-Specialty Labels

  • Some Independents are Specialty
  • Examples of Classical Specialty Labels: Nonesuch and Odyssey
  • Gospel
  • These labels have their own lane and don’t compete with mainstream music


Record Company Structure (Chapter 11)



CEO (Chief Executive Officer) – General Manager – “The Boss”

They vary from entrepreneurs, to producers, to A&R executives and usually connected to talent

-Examples: Clive Davis, Ahmet Ertegun, David Geffen


Artist and Repetoire (A&R)

***A shift from the past to day***

  • Responsible for finding and signing new talent
  • Act as internal music manager handling budgets, recording, song and producer selection
  • Usually responsible for artist development (not as much development today)
  • Most recently are searching social media using analytics


A&R Admin: Handles economics of A&R (non creative issues)


  • Distribution / Sales: Convince retailers to “showcase” it’s physical product on shelves or online
  • Marketing / Product Management: Coordinate all aspects of current release, including packaging, advertising tours, publicity, promotion, and sales activities (act like internal manager)
  • Radio Promo: In charge of getting airplay and charting. Close relationships with radio execs.
  • Video Promo: Get video airplay on TV, web
  • Publicity: In house publicists manage media exposure through TV appearances, magazine and press/articles
  • Digital: A lot of labels now have specific departments that just handle online promo. Can include social media promotio
  • Business and Legal Affairs: Handles all legal issues for label, artists, agreements, copyright issues
  • Accounting: Handles all financial functions


Major Trade Associations:


Recording Industry Association of America: Represents the labels, major and minor, account for the lion’s share of sales.

-Also known as RIAA.

-Best known for certifying best-selling records

-Lobbies government for label friendly regulation

-Represents industry to consumers

-Collects industry stats

-Battles online piracy / CD counterfeiting

-Most prominent force in the Big Music Labels drive to curb piracy


-The Recording Academy: Was once The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS)

  •     -Known now as The Recording Academy
  •     -Best known for The Grammy Awards

Voting members is limited to professionally active in creative and technical side of industry

  •         Composers, performers, producers, engineers, etc.
  •         Have to have a certain number of releases


Associate membership is open to music industry professionals whose business activity is directly related to recording, live performance, or music video industries or to creative and technical music professionals who don’t have documentation in order to be a voting member.

  • Usually boosts sales for artists (


**A student membership program** Available called Grammy U and is a community of full time college students pursuing a career in the recording industry (


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