On Recording for Major vs. Independent Labels Ratzo B. Harris



Ratzo B. Harris
Photo by Mikhal Shapiro

In my experience, recording for major labels focuses on demographic marketability more than artistic integrity and recording for independent labels usually allows for a greater degree of creative flexibility. On the other hand, the independent label’s tolerance toward artistic liberties is often inversely proportional to the ability to provide for a widespread distribution of their artist’s labors and the production expertise of the major labels. No wonder the concept of recording for an (or even creating one’s own) independent label as a "stepping stone" to the prestige of being associated with a major one is nearly as old as the industry itself, where the "bottom-line" pervasive to American culture is so important that every facet of production revolves around maximizing those integer(s) representing the growth of profits and all but obliterates the kind of musical risk-taking often integral to a memorable performance. In recent years the merger acquisitions of independents by major labels/conglomerates, further distances the artist’s creativity from the corporate decision-making processes that these once independent labels didn’t impose on their "rank and file," resulting in a kind of half-independent/half-major label where the best and worst of both worlds are in play. But I couldn’t say which I think is better or worse, since neither can replace the artistic truth and necessity of live musical performance.