It’s not as easy as it looks in the movies. For every cash-toting, recently signed band you might hear about—and, don’t get me wrong, there aren’t many—there are hundreds upon hundreds of quality acts trying to get their music out to the masses.
And sometimes the hope for exposure comes with a price. Whether it’s asking your own fans for money to fund an album or putting your trust in labels to distribute your music, there’s a certain cost that bands must constantly weigh.
In celebration of July 4th, America’s own celebration of independence, we’re taking a look at how labels (or a lack thereof) affect artistic freedom. So if you’re trying to decide on making a Kickstarter commitment or a big-label leap, fret not. Below, we’ve talked to eight different working acts that shed some light on the ins and outs of artistic freedom in a world of labels, the internet and cheap(er) home recording equipment.
1. Leah Diehl, Lightning Love
How is your music currently distributed?
Independently, through Quite Scientific Records.
Is this your preferred way to release your music?
We released our first record on our own and we definitely learned a lot from that, but we still don’t know enough. The indie label route has been great so far—we have a lot more direction while still being able to do whatever we want.
Have you used Kickstarter or other fan-funded options to release an album?
No. It clearly works for some people, but I hate it. I just can’t bring myself to ask for money like that. We funded our first record by playing lots of shows and saving the money. Asking for money feels lazy to me.
What are some pros and cons music fans might not understand about the way you distribute music?
Making music is a very personal and sensitive endeavor for most people. To put your music out on a label you have to hand over all that work and put your trust in someone else. You feel vulnerable. It’s a gamble like anything else, I guess, but it feels like you’re handing over your child or something. It’s scary.
Have advances in technology in Kickstarter, Bandcamp and more affordable home studio setups increased artistic freedom?
Absolutely. It’s more accessible than ever, and that’s a good thing. I don’t even care that it opens the door to more shitty music being made. Everyone should be able to make music. This is a very exciting time.