The Way Forward: Major Label Machine or Indie?


In 2016, being an “Indie Artist” carries a different weight than in previous years. With albums becoming more DIY than ever before, we are seeing more talent pave their way to success without the backing of a major label. Has the once sought after “record deal” lost its vigor? That Grape Juice weighs up below…

In an era where the 360 deal is alive and well, should artists reconsider joining forces with a major record label? Before we side with either party, let’s break down benefits and the shortcomings of the two.

Major Label


Maximum Exposure. A label can afford new artists a platform to launch their career into the stratosphere. What countless acts face is the inability to reach the masses. While outlets such as YouTube, SoundCloud, and even Vine provide instant reach, it remains an uphill battle to truly penetrate the online market. Take Grammy award winner, Meghan Trainor. The ‘NO’ maven rose to stardom with her #1 single ‘All About That Bass.’ After signing to Epic Records, the 22-year-old singer was on every talk show and award show performing her breakout hit. One can argue that the success of the song is what is the catapulted her to fame, but the push from Epic cannot be denied. Another positive is that with a record deal can come major funding for an artist’s project, a reality which played potently and publicly with the aggressive push that defined Rihanna‘s early career. Often coupled with a signing bonus, a record deal can seem too good to be true. In many aspects, it is.

As an artist, one must be aware of the business side of the music industry. Major labels act as a bank, handing out money for studio sessions, travel, imaging.. you name it, but this is not without a price. Artists that come to the label with no prior success are at the mercy of so-so deals where the label earns a large percentage of all revenue the artist generated. Hence 360 deal. We are all familiar with the TLC, JoJo, and Ke$ha label horror stories. Even the “vocal Bible” Brandy is having her own woes related to this. It is not entirely up the label. An artist also needs the right team surrounding them, which makes any deal a case-by-case experience.

Food for thought: have you ever looked at the roster of artists at any major label? Out of all the artists listed, check and see how many you actually recognize?



Independent artists can be synonymous with low quality music, low budget videos, and artists in their decline, but this is increasingly not always the case. With many stars recording high quality records in their bedroom, the boundaries of the indie artist have expanded monumentally. Many artists with previous record deals have decided to embrace the solo route. Dawn Richard, Ashanti, Keyshia Cole, and Tamia are just a few artists that have experienced the side of the independent artist.

What the indie route provides that a major label does not is complete control of one’s music, one’s direction, and one’s brand. Acts on this path are the captains of their own ship, which also means they are tasked with doing it all. An artist must fund their own projects and attempt to open doors that may be easier to bulldoze with a machine backing them. When working, artists on the indie wave enjoy the benefits calling the shots and you are also reaping the benefits accordingly. Functioning as an “indie” entity, the act is ultimately their own business – which, in turn, can be deliciously lucrative should they become commercially successful. Just ask Macklemore, who serve as a shining example of how said route can go gloriously right.

It is important to realize that a record deal does not equate to money, success, or even fame. A record deal is a contract that can be as equally beneficial as it is detrimental to an artist’s career. Conversely, life as an independent artist is a constant battle to stay afloat. All the trimmings of “the machine” – such as big budgets and the hottest producers – are oftentimes not as easily accessible. Similarly, there are the facets of the music business that are rarely seen – such as radio plugging and synchronization deals – that remain a struggle for those on the independent trajectory. It’s a reality that highlights why, for every “indie” success, so many don’t succeed as intended.

The New Way?

As the industry continues to shape shift and adapt to changing times, numerous major label artists are creating their own record labels and partnering with major entities in highly customized deals.

Beyonce has signed three artists under her company Parkwood Entertainment, which includes rapper Ingrid, singer Sophie Beem, and the duo Chloe & Halle.

Chris Brown also has his own label CBE which currently houses upcoming artist Joelle James, as well as Sevyn Streeter (who is co-signed to Atlantic).

Janet Jackson’s newly launched Rhythm Nation Records found a home at BMG, while Drake’s OVO imprint sits under the Warner umbrella (while he, as an artist, remains at Cash Money/Universal Music).

Is this homogenized setup the way forward for stars of today and tomorrow?


Naturally, we leave it up to you. In today’s market is it better to be in sync with the machine? Leading your own ship? Or perhaps a mix of both? Which artists could benefit from which approach?

With the likes of Ciara now a free agent and Beyonce on the cusp of releasing her last album under her current major label deal, it certainly makes for a fertile time to discuss.

Share your take below!

Your thoughts?

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  1. Cherylsoldierr April 15, 2016

    I can’t at you expecting commenters like annalise and teamtinman to understand and debate on topics like this ?

    • Cinnamon Girl April 15, 2016


    • Fancy BISH April 15, 2016

      It’s truly about an artist’s TEAM that makes the difference…having a trump tight team is the game changer…look at Taylor, Yonce, Jay, JT, Bieber, Katy, Weeknd, Ed Sheeran, Drake, and Lady Gaga as artists who have a SQUAD of people behind the scenes keeping things tight! An artist should think about that FIRST, but it’s hard to find the right mix of people…if your team isn’t right, a major vs. indie debate is null and void chile!

  2. Truth(honey Adel is a has been like nicki) April 15, 2016

    Indie honey

  3. Aml April 15, 2016

    Another post with Beyonce and “Vocal Bible ” Brandy bish please

    • Mimi April 15, 2016

      LOL!!@ Vocal bible. Old girl sounds like she inhaled the ashes from a chimney lol no range, no anything.

      • I AM LEGENDRIAH April 15, 2016

        And you sound like you inhale pounds of cuum and have to get your stomach pumped daily…don’t do it.

      • Mimi April 15, 2016

        LOL Stay mad.

      • Faf April 15, 2016

        Brandy? No range ? Huh?

  4. Yeee April 15, 2016

    Ciara was on Epic and she didn’t get a push like Meghan Trainor did

    • I AM LEGENDRIAH April 15, 2016

      Ciara was already flopping on LaFace and Jive labels. She was lucky to be signed to Epic in the first place. She should go indie or get her sugar daddy Russell to finance her next album.

      • XR225 April 15, 2016

        No. While Ciara was on Laface she had goodies and the evolution albums success. Things went down hill when Laface was sold to JIVE And La went to Def Jam. Jive wanted Ciara to be something she wasn’t.. hence fantasy ride leaked 9 months before release and basic instint Being set up to flop because Ciara wanted to go back urban and jive pretty much blackballed her for the singles she wanted to release. Once Jive was shut after 2011 all those artist signed to RCA and other labels. She went to epic while they where still trying to clean house and bring new people in since being at Epic Ciara really hasn’t benefited anything from them or management so that’s why she cleaned house. So lets research before being loud and wrong sis!

  5. Surprise..(DEC 2013) April 15, 2016


  6. .:: Centurion ::. April 15, 2016

    Adidas grossed $1.5 billion the help of Kanye, Pharrell & Rita Ora while Puma has grossed $1 billion from the help of Rihanna alone.

    • Surprise..(DEC 2013) April 15, 2016


  7. Kemar (@S_C_Jr on Twitter) April 15, 2016

    I think as a new artist or just someone who wants success quickly, sign to a major. If you’re willing to work hard or are a seasoned superstar like Beyoncé, you can go indie at this point and do whatever you want. I hope this historic deal Bey is about to sign, is actually a distribution deal for Parkwood. She’s talented and smart enough to do it fully on her own now.

  8. Cinnamon Girl April 15, 2016

    TGJ, I see you’re not reporting on how noone showed up for Beyawnce’s Ivy Park launch in NYC and how most of her clothes are still available on Topshops’ website. Teehee

    • I AM LEGENDRIAH April 15, 2016

      Gurrrrrrrrrlll, you are relentless. You must love getting dragged by the Beyhive, sis.

      • Cinnamon Girl April 15, 2016

        Why are you so angry? I’m telling the truth. TGJ is very biased when it comes to Beyawnce

  9. I AM LEGENDRIAH April 15, 2016

    This “think piece” is underdeveloped and sounds very existential. Whoever wrote this bullish stated that the “new way” is the likes of Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Chris Brown and whoever starting their own labels??? Was this blogger born in 2014? Successful or not, many popular artists were giving their own imprint labels by the majors for distribution and promotion – Babyface/LA Reid, Missy Elliott, Puffy, Mary J, Mariah, Wyclef, Timbaland, R Kelly, Madonna, the King of Pop, etc.

  10. Cinnamon Girl April 15, 2016

    Beyawnce is also being blasted for not crediting a clothing line that she wore in Elle magazine.

  11. flawda April 15, 2016

    The independent route works best when you have the money to fund your own path. I always thought Drake should of went independent instead of signing to CMR. He had all the buzz in the world and didn’t need CMR for anything. He basically have them a bigger piece of the pie for nothing.

    I think the biggest example of an Indy artist is Jay-z and that’s why he has attained all that wealth. Through out his whole career he was signed to himself (Roc-a-Fella and Roc Nation) and he used the majors (Universal and Sony) for distribution. You are starting to see his influence with Beyonce and Rihanna. Rihanna is basically a indy artist now, she is getting a bigger piece of the pie now that she isn’t with Def Jam. Beyonce will leave Columbia after she drops this greatest hits album to fulfill her contract.

    I don’t really don’t even see the point of major record labels anymore. It’s just an unnecessary middle man. You can make records and videos without the funding they provide.

  12. BCinKS April 15, 2016

    Most of these artists today don’t have the ear to go indie. Look at Ashanti and Keyshia Cole. We THOUGHT they had super pen skills, but you take away their team who helped craft their writings into songs and you’re left with all the terrible music they’ve recorded since going indie. Sometimes, too much control is a bad thing.

  13. Da Realest April 15, 2016

    I think with some artist, Indie is the way to go because the power of social media. Social media has now shift on how an artist can promote their music and their brand. For instance, Ms. Problematic Azealia Banks she has use this thing called twitter as her career. She says things on Twitter to get people upset then you this 100lbs young female on the main Coachella stage with her backup dancers, dj, band, and backup singers with tremendous stage presence; you just can’t believe she talks like that on Twitter, but I guess her thing. So I guess it’s just different things on how people could put their music by the way of internet with really going mainstream or getting on a major record label.

  14. LB April 15, 2016

    Can someone tell me why Ivy Park is still not sold out, with the exception of the XL sizes?

    • Cinnamon Girl April 15, 2016

      LMMFAO! I noticed the same thing! They’re not going to give you an answer. They’re just going to troll you and deflect

    • Stav April 15, 2016

      Can someone tell me why your mother didn’t rusty-coat hanger your deformed ass after that bum that impregnated her with you behind that dumpster refused to pay up? Rancid prostitutes shouldn’t reproduce, yet here you are. Flies and all…

      • MyloyaltybelongstoRiri April 15, 2016

        am only seeing a post about 1concert,is that all you got.can see you can’t do without checking riri. if you got a problem with the word “soldowt” go jump off a cliff #awt#soldowt

  15. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    why go indie trying to be a Queen but end up flopping like ANTI?
    every artist needs a Def Jam by thier aide to inflate their sales cos as soon as you leave Def Jam you get 460 copies sold and bought Plaques
    im jus sayin’

  16. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    I saw the human sewege finally left tgj. boy am I relieved! !!!
    but she’ll be back, she can’t stay away even if you pay her to

  17. DIABETIC STROKE April 15, 2016

    Lol @ all these FILLER post Sam keeps creating amist the wait for B6 to begin & R8 to end. Carry on…

    • Career Ender April 15, 2016

      R8 never began
      its just Marikos amd his bootygoon crew streaming it non stop all week on mute and not buying it
      R8 is flopping in every country it was released to

  18. smh April 15, 2016

    First of all stop putting Ciara’s name next to Beyonce that’s a no no. Secondly the only one who’s career is at a crossroad or should i say down a dead end street is Ciara’s!! Nothing can help her. She had too many chances and she still couldn’t sell.

  19. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    don try to act like you’re all that powerful amd go indie, you’ll end up having an 8 weeks at #1 song that has sold a lil over 1 mil downloads as opppsed to 3-4 mil standard sales of a 5+weeks at #1 songs
    flopping at all fronts Album sales, single sales, tour sales and video views
    I can’t! !!!! 😀

  20. King Mark111 /.\ April 15, 2016

    You would have a great article if your hate for Rihanna didn’t cloud your mind. Rihanna was pushed on her first 3 albums, but after that you could tell that she called the shots. She’s the only artist I can think of that out started the labels. And now look, indeed queen and still topping the charts.
    I don’t see the proof a label this time and age if you have to talent to write and/or produce your own music. Get a hit and the talk shows gigs will open like a flood gate. The platforms are open to everyone now, the days of TRL are gone.

    • Surprise..(DEC 2013) April 15, 2016

      No shade, i just listened to COLD CASE LOVE in full for the first time, i have to say it is probably RIHANNA BEST SONG. WOW, SHE SANG WITH SUCH ANGST AND PAIN…..

    • CherylSoldierr April 15, 2016

      Girl please. She didn’t push sh!t until anti

  21. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    WW sales: @rihanna , ANTI 38,000 (768,000
    she’ll be selling 8k by the time she reach 900k WW
    sadly worldwide they don’t count streams as sale , a bïtch is gonna have a rough era
    I am not laughing!

  22. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    460 copies sold ….” And that’s where the beginning of the end begun” – Lana Del Rey

  23. DIABETIC STROKE April 15, 2016

    Lol @ ANTI BACTERIAL flopping at eevery country it was released to. I have detected approximatley 0 lies by @carrer ender. Whats more funny is rih only grossing 990 k per show thats pathetic when all her competition is grossing $2-6 million per show. And the navy still on this formation is a flop thing when its clearly just buzz & pre tour material as bowdown sots & gw was in mrs carter tour. I hope be release on her 35th birthday 10 years after Christ-Day.

  24. King B April 15, 2016

    Depends though.

  25. King B April 15, 2016

    Beyonce is the only artist that can. She manages herself and look, she’s even bigger than she was with Matthew.

  26. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    where is that illegitimate ashy a$$ African called Centurion?
    come here, let’s talk numbers!! you pathetic calabash hand carving bxtch

    • Jackson 5 Nostrils (Tyler) April 15, 2016

      Seething at the top of the post. He goes by Cinnamon Girl now *sips Tea*

      • Career Ender April 15, 2016


      • Lolz April 15, 2016

        and Career ender goes by the Thot you will never be aka Tori Taylor Azelea.
        i bet his other profile will make an appearance

      • Career Ender April 15, 2016

        Too bad you resurrected but Artpop didn’t


  27. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    how can you be selling 38,000 copies of your album in like 100+ countries in less than 12 weeks
    and yet your fan base call you GLOBAL QUEEN??????

  28. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    the Salvation army got blinded by the streams of ‘Work’ …. streams NOT sales. … and thought Needed me and Kiss it better were going #1
    forgetting how the trick failed to do so all year 2015, don’t act like you forgot. the floppage continues….

  29. DIABETIC STROKE April 15, 2016

    @ career

    I think it has a lot to do with her label trying to make her like Bey. Rih borrowed beys swag A LOT during her early career b/w her debut and gggb. Then there was rr her vest effort but didnt sell well so they dumbed her down sum with loud. Her fans then got used to RUSHED OUT albums every november. Then all of a sudden no album in 3 years. Now her team is finally realizing what they didnt want to… that rih will NEVER & could never be like Bey. 20 years later and stil THAT B-ITCH selling out STADIUMS & performing for presidents & superbowl Several times with 20 grammys 5 #1 albums in a row and still counting. Rih had a good run but still a SINGLES artist which is why she remains #BREZZYSTATUS Chris brown too is a singles artist. They should get back together maybe it will help ignite interest… and sales.

  30. LB April 15, 2016

    Still wondering why Ivy park is not sold out. Why is it that only the XL sizes are sold out?

    And where is B6s release date? And FLOPation on the charts. So many unanswered questions.

    • Career Ender April 15, 2016

      not it being unsold like AntiSuccess World Tour tickets
      take this “L”

    • Jackson 5 Nostrils (Tyler) April 15, 2016

      Because there are typically fewer XL sizes, ya big funny. That’s how retail works. The average woman is a size 5 .

      • Jackson 5 Nostrils (Tyler) April 15, 2016


  31. LB April 15, 2016

    Oh and Dimitrius or whatever, yes artists still need labels simply because labels have got the infrastructure.

    You cannot be the master of it all, you need a label to connect you to radio stations, TV talk shows, Marketing, photographers, video directors, producers, writers…etc. They just have all that infrastructure that indie’s don’t have access to.

    A label that truly believes in you can help you launch a successful campaign, the rest is up to you. It is all about comparative advantage and playing to your strengths, letting people do their job and realize everyone has a role to play.

  32. DIABETIC STROKE April 15, 2016

    Rihs album will STALL at 1 mill ww & 400k US & take ALL YEAR just to do that. The tour while probably 90% sold out wont make any top tour list while Bey will probably be #1 or atleast top 3 esp if she extends this tour to 2017.

  33. LB April 15, 2016

    So are you saying, in addition to the paycheck she received from Samsung, she’ll get an additional check for 1 million additional units sold from the public on her label, (not the 7% Yonce is receiving, ask Lisa Left Eye), and let’s not forget the robust Spotify check for being the most streamed artist on the site.

    Slay bish.

    Now where is FLOPtation? Where is B6? Why isn’t Ivy Park sold out?

    • xedos April 16, 2016

      Remember Rihanna owns the masters to all her albums . Anti is on her label so she’s getting most of that check.universal will get a distribution fee.

  34. DIABETIC STROKE April 15, 2016

    If bey even scores a top 10 hit or even has close to Drake/kanye level of hype she will easily sell more than rih thus far in a week… maybe even days. Self titled took only 5 days to sell 1 million world wide while Anti… welll…

  35. DIABETIC STROKE April 15, 2016

    Lmao @ LOOSEBUTT comparing beys pockets to the Tlcs bankrupt lisa left eye whom had to split her check 3 ways and then 10 other ways just to end up $10 million dollars in debt and leave behind her 2 sisters to create a gofundmepaypal pg decades later. #BYEFELICIA Beys networth is $500 million and got paid a million just to lend her voice for 15 secinds in Epic(movie)

    • Career Ender April 15, 2016

      your alter ego is more tired than ANTiSuccess selling power Worldwide
      Rihanna’s was probably reduced to 35 in the meantime

  36. OQRAM April 15, 2016

    Aside from Macklemore’s last album, what indie-released album has been successful? Ashanti failed. Janet failed. SWV failed. Keyshia, TLC and Brandy are going to fail. Just about all of them ultimately fail. The most they might do is crack iTunes singles chart at a low level for a week or two, and that’s about it. People acting like it’s all the rage now to go indie, when all they do is end up flopping with their albums going almost completely unnoticed commercially.

    Yeah, they might be able to keep a bigger share of the profit, but where is the revenue coming from? They gotta front all their own overhead and pay additional marketing/distributor fees. Most of them can’t get their music played anywhere because they don’t have the force to make that happen. And speaking of music/video, it usually sounds/looks cheap because they had to hire generic collaborators who were willing to work for little AND don’t have the money to spend extra time in the studio perfecting final mixes and editing. Which is also why most indie acts are forced to manage themselves, because they can’t afford to hire any reputable industry professionals.

    So ultimately, I don’t see the appeal of going “indie,” how it brings them any real success or how it nets them that much more money. It seems like when you go indie, you’re forfeiting just about all chances for real commercial success and are just content to be a “working” musician, playing low level gigs to pay your bills. Going from the Grammy stage to clubs/radio station concerts would be enough to make me say f*** it and quit.

  37. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    the juggernaut is prijected to sell 13k albums next week….I mean Pure Album Sales 🙂
    will this CD ever sell Platinum?
    mind you she’s at 342k

    Artpop could never!!!!!!!!!!

  38. DIABETIC STROKE April 15, 2016

    Lol even if beys networth was 250 and has only 80 mill left in the bank it would STILL BE MORE THAN RIHANNA @LB. LOL @ the self dragging.

  39. LB April 15, 2016

    250 million and 80 million left in the bank, damn you’re absolutely stupid. I will stop this conversation right there.

    • Jackson 5 Nostrils (Tyler) April 15, 2016

      What is Rihanna’s money looking like considering how she went BANKRUPT a few years back?

  40. DIABETIC STROKE April 15, 2016

    Bey managing herself leaves rih even furtger behind in the dust when it comes to sells. Self titled alone sold 8+ million records and cost more than Anti Climax.

  41. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    so now that Anti is flopping at all fronts they are running to use Networth?
    why not run to Walmart to purchase those dusty Amti CDs LB? is it that freezing in Canada?

  42. DIABETIC STROKE April 15, 2016


    NETWORTH and whats in their bank acct are 2 seperate entities but i wouldnt expect u to know that being a rih stan. Bey managing herself making more BANK than rih owning her masters. Instead of worring yurself about the Xtra Large menu on ivy park site u need worry more about yur fav grossing less than 1 mill per show. 80 shows? Isnt that Slavery? How much are they paying frih anyway to slave this hard?

  43. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    Sam who’s Dimitri? amd why’s he writing weekly articles than Joe
    let Joe write posts other than the 3 comments posts he write on weekends
    let Dimitri write those, I want Joe over her and less of David the emotional Nigerian queeeeeennnnn

  44. LB April 15, 2016

    What you have in the Bank is added in the net worth calculation.

    If you have 80 million in cash, that is an asset that is part of the net worth calculation.

    Net worth = Assets – Liabilities

    Did you get your online degree from Devry?

    • Jackson 5 Nostrils (Tyler) April 15, 2016

      What is Rhianna’s bank account looking like?
      Did she learn how to manage her money after that whole BANKRUPTCY fiasco????
      Or is she still living beyond her her means?

  45. Career Ender April 15, 2016

    stay clear of my way like LB usually does amd you shall retain your hair and cheap hyena fur wigs

  46. DIABETIC STROKE April 15, 2016


    Working is for slaves… learning is for even bigger slaves. Need not get ANY degree for the welfare offices pays me enuff for me AND MINES! You need not worry about my education cuz i dont need one. Ur doing my homework for me clearly u are. *BLAST WORK*

    • Barb B**** April 15, 2016

      Lmao stop.You a mess for this. That poor girl in your avi.

  47. Jackson 5 Nostrils (Tyler) April 15, 2016

    How much is Rhianna worth, any ideas ???

  48. MyloyaltybelongstoRiri April 15, 2016

    @diabetic,riri didn’t borrow any swag from beyonce,rada it’s the other way round.let me take you down memory lane,first she put up her name as baddiebey on instagram,who remembers that period?My riri @that time was and still badgalriri.she also tried 2 shade rihanna with that her interview where she mentioned most musicians only churn out singles& no one was really doing albums,Rihanna had a bunch or singles that where doing well if I might add but her album wasn’t released@ that time.Rihanna wore that her gown which showed her b*** crack and your queen decided 2 wear one with her all b*** crack out @the met gala.beyonce has always been an insecure woman.she did that with shakira and co,unfortunately for her,she’s never been able 2 kill RIHANNA’s

  49. king April 15, 2016

    These days its just bested to be independent. Definitely if you’re a veteran in the game

  50. Nate April 15, 2016

    What people don’t understand is the appearance of success is not the same as actual success. Going major these days is essentially dooming yourself in the long run, and take home way less. Don’t be mislead, music biz is struggling, the ultimate struggle. I’m sure most major artists are being treated like Laface artists as a whole. 360 is no joke. Going Independant means you keep your masters, less hands in your money pie. 360 even snatches away touring, which has always been a strictly artist and band earning. INdependance is really the name of the game in most industrys. You may not see them in major media, that’s paid for by majors, but they will get their check first.

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