Should You Sign with a Record Label in 2020?

The role of the music label used to be getting an artist’s album played on radio and stocked on store shelves. That has changed as the internet has freed artists from their dependence on labels. Today, many opt to market and distribute their music independently through social media and streaming platforms.

It makes even more sense as more and more music retailers have closed shop and several general market stores have stopped carrying music.

In response to the changing music climate, some labels, especially in niche genres like heavy metal, hardcore and hip hop, have transformed into lifestyle companies, offering artists and bands a ready-made fan base to get their music heard without having to do the constant touring and promoting of yesteryear.

“Not everyone needs a label in the traditional sense,” says industry veteran Jay Reason. He points to there being plenty of great services like Distrokid and TuneCore that help artists get their songs added to streaming services.

So then why is he starting his own music label, Static Era Records? For the simple reason that once on the streaming platforms, many artists don’t know what to do next.

Jay Reason says his label is finding its worth by partnering artists with teams that handle online sales and help them to collect on digital performance royalties most didn’t know they were entitled to. The label also connects talent with bookers that can place them as an opening act for a larger, more established group, and agencies that can lock in third-party merchandise deals. “We’ve recently started placing some of our catalog in TV and movies,” he explains. “It’s amazing how many more opportunities open up for a song once it appears in a program or on film.”

Jay Reason photographed by Davey Wilson

Prior to launching Static Era Records, Jay Reason was a touring musician. His first band, Voice of Reason, released music in the late 90’s/early 2000’s on indie labels, Victory Records and Triple Crown Records. His second band, The Distance, released music on the seminal hardcore label, Bridge 9 Records as well as an album, produced by Shep Goodman (American Authors, Hall & Oates) on Century Media subsidiary, Abacus Records.

When not on the road, he worked as an A&R Manager for Stillborn Records, developing artists and facilitating the expansion of the hardcore/metal label. It eventually led to Reason joining Sony Music where he worked on the marketing campaigns for Michael Jackson, Miles Davis and Billy Joel, among others. Working on stage and in the executive office gave him insight into both sides of the music business and helped Reason to build a network of manufacturers, publicists, bookers and agents.

He advises groups and artists that are considering signing with a record label to align themselves with one that has a proven track record and shares their vision for the project.

The artists on his roster all fall under the punk genre. The first release from Static Era Records, out now, is from Canadian rockers Sights & Sounds. Titled “No Virtue,” the album marks the band’s first new music since their 2013 EP “Silver Door”, and their first full length since 2009’s “Monolith”. Next up for the label will be the fifth studio album from Maine’s Cruel Hand, followed by a project from Brooklyn based post hardcore band, Husbandry.

So bottom line… should artists and bands sign to a record label?

“It depends,” says Reason.

If the artist or band already has a firm grasp on their distribution and promotion, or if they cannot find a label that aligns with their vision and goals, then the answer may be no.

However, if the record label provides services the artist or band cannot source on its own, and offers a fair agreement that works to everyone’s benefit, then yes, signing with a record label can be the ticket to rock stardom in 2020.



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