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The Label Phenomenon Epiphany 

As a new guy here, I hope I’m not over stepping my bounds, but I had an interesting discussion with a musician friend and thought I’d share it because honestly maybe I’m the only one who thinks this way…

I put out my new record today (Dec. 20th) and while talking with a friend about it he said “when are you going to start shopping it to labels?”  I thought about it very briefly and said “there are a couple small labels I’d like to get it out to but that’s actually not the first move on my list…” After I said that he looked at me like I had just kicked his baby or something and said “first of all, why would that not be a top priority and secondly why only small “independent” labels?  You should be banging down the door to get in with the big guys, that’s where the success is.”  I graciously disagreed and he asked why.  (he asked in kind of a prick type, puffed up manner might I add) 

Here’s my reasoning for not going after the big guys and feel free to add your two cents:  

I told him that really all I wanted to do was play for as many people as possible.  I wasn’t in it to share on Facebook or Twitter that I signed a major deal because that’s about as good as telling everyone you made a cup of coffee.  It helps no one, and it gets me no further in my career.  It doesn’t get someone new to sign up not eh email list, it doesn’t get someone new to buy my record.  It MIGHT jealously force someone to see what “miracle juice I have that got signed a major deal” to click play on iTunes but I’m thinking that’s about as good as it gets. 

My point is, I think for the longest time I thought:

-I’ll put out a fantastic, well thought out, expensive record of songs I wrote someday and then I’ll shop it to every single major label (all 4 or whatever of them) and someone there will hear this thing and call me up and say “hey kid got your stuff are you ready to be bigger than U2, cause I’m about to offer you a record deal.”  Then I go on tour with Bon Jovi or Keith Urban or Train or U2 or whatever and my life will be the magical Disney tale I always dreamed it would be.

That’s not what would happen.

Just because someone signs the paperwork with a major label doesn’t mean that the next show you play will have new or more butts in the seat.  It doesn’t work that way.  I’ve got a few friends who signed with Universal about a year and a half ago and they are still playing to the same crowds they were playing to before.  They go to a few other parties each year, they have a sweet looking website, they’ve met some massive names in the music industry and they have a poster that says Universal Recording Artists on it but other than that, they are still working like crazy to get people to come to the gigs.  They are working like crazy to write and record songs, they are working like crazy to pay back the advance Universal gave them when they signed. (If you thought that advance was free money because Universal likes your record or your hair cut you better read the fine print) 

When it comes down to it, for any live performing musician singer/songwriter it’s really all about “asses in seats.” Maybe some of those majors out there still take tons of time, money and effort to get their brand new artists more exposure so that it does drive more people to get to the shows, I don’t know I’m not with one.  But I do know that when I play out I stress like crazy about getting people to the shows on top of rehearsals and advertisements and promo and junk.  

Would you care less about Warner records if you already had 30,000 people in the seats?


Harley Jay is a singer/songwriter living in North Hollywood, CA.  After a year long tour playing Mark Cohen in the rock musical Rent as well as the same role on Broadway, Harley released a solo record entitled Without Wax.  Kind of a Keith Urban meets Train type vibe.  Harley just released his newest record Lifted Me From Lonely on december 20th, 2011.  

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