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Why Most Indie Music Groups and Labels Fail (Part 1)

This is part 1 of a 2 part article I wrote strictly based on my professional experience producing and engineering and managing artists.  Since 2006, I’ve been involved as a key member in several music groups, labels, and production teams that despite all their potential to achieve greatness, fail and fall apart, often at critical moments.

So without further ado…
1) Unchecked Egos
We all have them, but some people do not know how to keep them in check or simply to check them at the door.  Unchecked Egos will tear apart even the closest allies and cause individuals to think they can do better on their own than with the group.  Though this is sometimes the case, a great deal of wasted time and energy can be avoided. Recognize the people with potential Ego issues and eliminate them from the group/organization/team/label.  Attempt to help them with their Ego issue is not recommended as it can backfire.  Death to overinflated egos!
2) Lack of leadership
No organization can succeed without strong leadership – independent music groups and labels are no different.  Without a leader, they will undoubtedly fail. Usually, there is one person (or sometimes in the case of larger groups 2 or even 3 people) that are the natural leaders of the group.  These individuals are the most reluctant to except their positions as the leader of the group.  Oftentimes, this reluctancy comes from their notions about what a leader is – they imagine them dominating the group as a king or controlling every single aspect of the group.  This is not what a leader is or does.  The very reluctancy to lead can sometimes even be an indication that this very person is the right one to lead.  Humbleness and dedication to the rise of the team/company are essential and necessary qualities.
3) Fear, Anxiety or Worry
Hesitant, would-be leaders are sometimes afraid on stepping on their allies/teammates toes.  If you are unwilling to step on a few toes – If you fear losing a few customers/clients in order to grow/evolve and further the vision- If you are afraid to kick people off of the ‘bus’ in order to figure out where to drive it – the team, and you as a leader, will not succeed.
4) Lack of direction/ No clear Goals
This is unfortunately very common.  Many assumptions about success are made, but clear goals and a vision for what success is are a must.  In other words, unless each individual defines success for themselves personally and how the group should define success on a bigger scale, then no progress will be made.  No goals, no success.  Set goals and your success will not only be defined, but the steps you need to take to achieve them will also be crystal clear.
Procrastination is like mental masturbation because you are only f***ing yourself!  Ideas and concepts are great, but unless they are turned into objectives, completed – they will not be reality and might as well be called wishes, hopes and dreams.  You must take a sense of urgency with everything you do – even the smallest things like following up with key allies can go by undone for weeks and then a key relationship is lost/destroyed possibly forever.  Don’t let this happen!  Make a habit to take action and you will live out your dreams and achieve everything you want and more!
(part 2 coming soon)

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Reader Comments (10)

Sometimes, even friends can't or should not work together. It's only in a crucial moment that you see the level being given by your 'friend'. Your input and hard work may be taken for granted by someone else, or misconstrued as something completely different. The music industry is quirky at best and a complete shambles at it's worst. I try (and sometimes succeed) to live by the motto "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." Always have a back up plan when possible and when you see the crap floating to the surface, don't be afraid to speak out not freak out. The other thing is that you can not deny fate. If the project is meant to be, it will happen. Sometimes we all forget that fact.
Check out some of my blogs at

January 2 | Unregistered CommenterDuane

I couldn't agree any more with this, I set up my first label in 2009, followed by 2 more in 2012, whilst we have come a long way since we started, we still have a long long way to go.

Over inflated Ego's are a big ''No No" for me, I don't care if your the most talented artist on the planet, if you can't be polite, understandable and if you're not in it for the love of making and sharing music then as a label, I don't want to know you.

We've had a good dozen artists come and go over the years, most of them good selling acts, but because of their over inflated ego's I decided they were doing more damage than good. (It's not all about making a quick buck..I'm in this for the long haul).

I'm glad to say that we now have over 75 artists split between each label, all of who'm are in regular contact with each other and several of who'm now take on projects of their own such as taking over the labels Soundcloud account, planning and implimenting collaborative projects within the label, designing our new web site, branding and much more.

I find that working as a team unit is very rewarding, my labels are very much run as a family, with each artist doing what they can for the cause.

To run a successful label takes up most of ones life, can be frustrating at times, but if you have a passion and a belief and if you are not afraid to make the big decisions when they need to be made, the rewards can be massive.

This was an excellent read and if you're planning to start a label of your own I highly recommend taking Glenn's advice .

January 2 | Unregistered CommenterEML Recordings

A long term web friend of mine decided to start a label back in March 2012... We are yet to launch yet due to legal issues. Of course this is due diligence, but it can feel like a lot of worry.

January 3 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Early

Interesting! I'm keen to read part 2. From a band management perspective I would have to say on point 1 that unchecked egos are certainly an issue, but unfortnately I don't think it is as clear cut as a simple 'no tolerance' policy. Sometimes an ego can be oddly positive- it provides the confidence and often the drive for band members to be able to thrust themselves into the spotlight. Therefore I'd say that it is more about trying to keep the ego in check, or you have a "you're nothing without me" situation on your hands.

January 3 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Thank you @Duane and @EML Recordings for your comments and feedback on the article. They were greatly appreciated. Please be on the lookout for more articles and informative content from MusicBizWizKids in the near future!

January 3 | Unregistered CommenterMusicBizWizKids

@Lauren visit the site for Part 2 or just go to

January 3 | Unregistered CommenterMusicBizWizKids

'accept' not 'except' in 2)

January 4 | Unregistered CommenterChris Amati

There is such a difficult juxtaposition between the overinflated ego and true leadership. Especially for creative types of people, the struggle itself to maintain some sort of balance can mean the end of an enterprise. I feel like this is something I could expound upon for pages.

EML it si unbelievably refreshing when I get to hear this "(It's not all about making a quick buck..I'm in this for the long haul).

January 5 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Fitch

Great read ... thanx!

January 7 | Unregistered CommenterPatrina Reddick

Looking forward to reading part 2.

I am a new independent recording artist who is starting their own label as well here in Arizona, so it is nice to know what to look out for and how to succeed in the business that I love.

Thank you.

January 7 | Unregistered CommenterJaaDFire

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