Music Lesson: Unsigned

This is the last installment in the Music Lesson series on labels. Just to recap, we’ve learned:
a) A band is considered to be signed to a major label if they release music under one of the big four, whether directly or through one of their many sub-labels. 
b) A band is considered to be signed to an independent label if they release music under one of the many independently owned labels who do not operate through one of the big four.

This week we’re going to look at the last category of label signage, and that would be the unsigned or self-released.

Most artists who make a record, from the kid with the guitar in high school to an underground punk band, have a label name on the back of the album. But unless it’s a major or indie label, chances are it’s the artists self-release. Meaning, they aren’t “signed” to a record label and since they’re putting it out on their own they figure they might as well give themselves their own label. Usually, they are the only band on their new “label”. 

But sometimes, “unsigned” or underground bands might get together and join in a little d.i.y union to create a small label on their own. Unless this label truly operates like a business, I still consider these community efforts to be self-release labels. After a while and some “popularity” these self-release labels might float into the realm of independent. For example, lost sound tapes is clearly a community effort by a group of d.i.y-ers on the west coats, but by looking at their website and catalogue you can see that this label has elevated themselves to the “independent status”.

Not everything needs a name, and these days having a label doesn’t mean much towards a bands “success”, but hopefully this lesson series offered you a little insight.


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