To be or not to be: Independent Vs Signed (Part 2) – Interview with KenKodie
I recently did an interview with KenKodie a London based rapper, singer and producer who has had a good buzz in the UK underground scene for the past year. He has featured on songs with some grime heavy weights and is tipped to have a successful career. However like many in the underground scene he is yet to see any real recognition from major record labels. We spoke about the trials and tribulations of an independent artist trying to get signed by a major label. When asked about the hardest thing for an independent artist to deal with he had this to say,
‘As an independent artist, the hardest thing I would say is self-promotion and getting your music out to a wider audience. You have to get your music heard by the right people while staying consistent, and you have to invest in yourself with money you might not have to pay for a video for example, and have it put on promotional websites and played on radio etc…. My track Feeling Dope has been tough to promote but I’ve been building the right team with the right PR so it is getting a lot of radio play.’
I went on to ask him whether or not popular sites such as YouTube and Myspace have reduced the need for record labels.
‘I don’t think you do need a label so much when you have artist like Soulja Boy and Justin Beiber who built a following off YouTube, then you got Calvin Harris for example who did the same on MySpace.’
However he did note the importance of record companies in terms of promotion,
‘record labels have marketing teams; promotion teams and the funding to make your product look amazing even if it is just average, and they have the ability to put you on certain platforms an independent artist wouldn’t be able to get to himself. It is hard to get to fans there is lots rubbish that’s out there so labels can be seen to be a bit of a filter (sometimes lol).’
It seems independent artists such as KenKodie realise in order to take their music to the masses a deal with a major record label is still the only real viable option. Although sites such as YouTube and MySpace have made it easier for artists to put their music out on a significant smaller budget, they still need the money that record labels guarantee for other aspects of a successful music career such as advertising and promotion. In this economic climate it is not practical for an artist to release their own music with the money coming straight out of their own pocket. Although inspiring, Justin Beiber and Soulja boi’s success through these mediums doesn’t exactly tell the full story.
It is important to remember that these websites are filled with millions of people with the same goal and are highly saturated with both good and bad artists. The two artists can also be seen as perfect examples of how record labels can mould an artist into something they’re not. Beiber for example was initially recognized for his R n B singing voice however since being signed, he has gone into a more pop direction. This of course makes perfect business sense as he would be easier to package as the ‘teen heartthrob’ rather than the skinny white teenager talking about things he’s too young to know about. It seems in order for an artist to flourish in this day and age they have to swallow their pride and accept that their record label has an important say.
Tell us your opinions below.