Is Waka Flocka Planning On Going Independent?: A Short Study On Indie & Major label Artists
The music industry currently has a larger number of independent artists than ever before. This is thanks in large part to technological advances in the DAW world which allows anyone with a laptop or tablet to easily produce, and record music. The advent of digital music outlets such as iTunes, Beatport, Amazon MP3, and Bandcamp has made it easy to distribute music globally at a very low price. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have made it easy to promote music directly to consumers. With all of this in mind it didn’t come as a surprise to me when I found out that hip hop star Waka Flocka wants out of his major label contract with Atlantic Records.
The rapper went on a tirade on Twitter about how he wants to buy out his contract due to the many frustrations that it has brought him. It’s not the first time an artist has gone on to cuss out his/her label on social media, but it simply reminded me of how “easy” it has become to be an independent artist that, while in the past most people would have sold their own mothers to get a major label deal, nower days many artists are preferring to go indie.
That’s not to say that major labels are useless, because they’re not. They still have their hand in majority of the music that reaches consumers on the major outlets such as radio, TV, the big online stores like iTunes, and so on. But now more than ever I feel that indie artists are probably way better off than those contracted to a major label.
Effects of independence
This independence has had a HUGE effect on the music industry. For one, music is no longer in the sole control of the major record labels which are notorious for hogging creative control. It’s not rare to hear that an artist feels like s/he is being creatively suffocated and wants out of his/her contract. Therefore one of the biggest advantages of independence is that artists are freer to make the type of music they want, and thereby escape the trap of being forced to make music which lacks authenticity.
However, due to the lack of control we’ve seen an exponential increase in the amount of music that’s released to the market which many believe has contributed to the decline in quality of the end product. That’s mostly a subjective issue though, as is the nature of art. But it is true that a lot of music does not go through quality control processes that a major label structure might have. And many a time this results in music that is sonically poor or harsh to most ears.
The shelf life of music seems to have also taken a dive due to consumers having so much content at once that it’s difficult to stay focused on a few artists. Every week we hear of a new artist or trend. Every day we hear so much new music. How can anyone possibly focus on just one artist with all this content?
Album sales have also plummeted but this can be attributed more to the digital distribution model which allows you to buy only the songs you want from an artist. Many independent artists are making a living like this. They tour off of a few singles and they become overnight stars just based on one song.
Many major labels nower days are actually not investing in artist development. They wait for an indie artist to blow up or at least show up on the radar and then sign them quickly so that they can reap the benefits of his/her fame. The unfortunate thing about this is that it can sometimes backfire and cause an artist to regress. Sometimes the spirit of independence drives an artist so much that it pours over into the music and fuels them towards success. Having a big daddy to take care of you can sometimes lead you taking a backseat. However, major labels have a global reach and marketing power that can even make the people buy music from the crappiest musicians, sometimes.
The advantages of independence and major labels are many but back to Waka; is he wrong to want out of his deal? That’s a question only he can answer. But if he decides to go indie I fully support his decision (not that my opinion matters to him). He has had massive success and can continue to do so as an indie artist if he keeps making good music, maintains discipline, and markets the hell out of himself. The great thing about the indie scene is that fewer people will be in his pocket so there’s that and he won’t have to worry about things like what he said in his Twitter feed below.
Other artists have had critical and financial success without major labels. Great examples are Tech N9ne, Macklemore, and Cormega. All the best to Waka.