How “Indie” is your Favorite Small Label: Vanity Labels What they are and how they Work

There are numerous indie labels out there some even release major notable artist releases surprisingly a good number of smaller labels are not independent as you many people are led to believe and are either funded by a major artist or a major label or both. These labels run as a subsidiary of whoever is funding them. There are many benefits for both the artist and the label by operating this way.

When artist start their vanity labels it is a catalyst for one of two things either as a means to release their own music, an artist would choose to do this because he or she has more creative freedom with their own label while maintain the funding that the major label that they are a subsidiary of, on top of having the funding this provides the artist with a new title to add to their resume, in todays society its not all that uncommon for an artist to be managing a label, many of the top artist are doing such across multiple genre’s from the hip-hop moguls like Dr. Dre working with Universal Music Group and Interscope Records for his Aftermath Label to country western stars like Big and Rich working with Warner Brothers Nashville to create Rawbaw Record. Even one the most commercially and pioneering pop groups in history The Beatles formed their own label which we would now refer to as a vanity label known as Apple records

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There are the artist who have started vanity labels not solely out of self interest but those who love music and want to give back to the community of new and up and coming artist trying to make it themselves in a business where it’s hard to get a break. An example of this would be the electronic artist Skrillex who started his label OWSLA to help artist like Porter Robinson and Zedd find their footing and move on to the next step in their career. This provided the artist not only with the support of a label, but new opportunities that they were less likely to have without a big name in their field to help open the door to these opportunities.

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The artist in not the sole benefited of all of these vanity label although a small handful of these labels are truly independent most are ran by one of the big three labels which means their has to be some benefit these big labels fronting the bills gets from this. There are a few benefits the label gets a new roster of up and coming artist that they are able to pick from if they are successful and if the artist fails it is not seen as a black mark against the major labels name. By working with a vanity label these artist get to develop their sound more naturally as if they were working with one of the indie labels oppose to the major labels coming in and creating the group that way the artist genuinely finds their voice, this benefits the major label because when they get to come in and pull the successful artist from the vanity label to be on their major label after they have developed their voice which allows the major label to save money.

The major label can also often benefit from the appearance of the vanity label being seen as an indie. Often times the consumer will associate the vanity label with the person operating it and will not take into account that it is still part of a major label therefore it will keep up appearance as an indie label. In the millennial culture there is a sense of nobility in helping the underdog and supporting an independent business/label; the major labels are able to use this mentality by creating the and funding vanity labels.

Although vanity labels are not truly “Indie” labels they operate in with essentially much of the same mentality as the indie labels do. Although major labels are funding them they still work on smaller budgets and usually work with smaller rising artist. In the end it’s up to you to decide whether you would put a vanity label in the spectrum of indie or not.

-Andrew Beeh

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