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Welcome to the latest episode of the Music Business Worldwide Podcast. MBW Podcast is supported by Voly Music. In this episode, MBW founder Tim Ingham talks with successful independent artist Bruno Major.
How big can an indie artist get without the help of a major record label?
This point has been the subject of heated debate for 20 years, since the likes of the TuneCore came out in the early to mid-1990s.
But these days, receipts are available to answer questions.
We feature Bruno Major, a fully independent artist and guest on this episode of the Music Business Worldwide Podcast.
The UK-based major releases music via AWAL, owns his own recordings and has over 1 billion streams on Spotify. Two of his tracks are none and simply – Over 2.5 billion streams each.
Major recently released their latest single. we were never real friends and colomboprior to his third studio album, also called colombo – It will be available later this summer.
Major is a successful live act, with recent tour dates in Asia, Europe and North America, including a previous arena tour with Sam Smith.
He also has a particularly interesting background in the record industry. Major entered the music industry with a major label deal with then-EMI owned Virgin Records in Los Angeles.
In this MBW podcast, Major discusses his experience signing (and leaving) a major label at a young age, how that experience has fueled his career ambitions ever since, and how he inspired his creative streak as an independent artist. Talk about what you keep.
Listen to the full interview above, or read a summary of key elements of the discussion and an edited summary below…
You were originally a session musician. What happened after you signed a contract with a major record company?
Originally I was going to be a guitarist. I dreamed of being Stevie Wonder’s guitarist or Tom Waits’ guitarist.
But I moved to London and I think the energy in the city inspired me to start writing.I immediately recognized the combination of words and music [was a] It’s been a big passion of mine, and that’s where the magic really was for me.
“What I did was you were a hot artist and everybody was trying to sign you and then there was a bidding war. It was fun for a 23 year old.”
I ended up signing a publishing deal with Sony. Soon after, it attracted interest from record labels.
You become a hot artist, everyone wants to sign you, and then there’s a bidding war. It was fun for a 23 year old.
It’s also probably intimidating. The Music Industry People use jargon and numbers fly around. what was your experience with that?
To be honest, I’ve always had a clear idea about it. I just finished watching it on BS.
I would go to the record label with the guitar at the meeting and they would say, ‘Oh, he’s got the guitar. it’s cute ‘ And some said, ‘You should be like this. [other] male singer-songwriter. ”
I ended up signing with Virgin Records, which was in America at the time. Because they were the only record label that just said, “You’re amazing.” Here is the check. 』
“I went back to America with my head held high and my eyes shining and I delivered this. And they said, ‘This is crap.’ we are not going to release it. In fact, they said it was ‘unreleasable’. ”
We signed a contract with them on the premise that they would never be allowed into the studio for the entire duration of the album’s production. I said, “I don’t want you there.” I don’t want your opinion on my creative process. I don’t want any A&R. ’ They were like, great.
After 6 months, we recorded [the album] British [and] With my chest puffed up and my eyes sparkling, I returned to America to deliver this. And they said, “This is crap.” we are not going to release it. In fact, they said it was “unreleasable”.
Well, that’s the end of my tenure with them.
How did it make you feel when someone said the album was ‘unreleaseable’? What effect did it have on your self-esteem and confidence?
It was brutal. It’s a long way from there.
I come from a small town called Northampton in the Midlands. [UK]. Growing up success for me was becoming a professional musician. Any kind; it would have been nice to be professional [music] A tutor or lecturer, or someone who played a gig at a wedding. My dream was to make music and make a living.
But then a record deal offer came and Virgin Records flew you to Los Angeles and put you in a five-star hotel.Suddenly you are dealing with all this [big-name musicians]I was working on this album with my heroes. And of course I told everyone. My parents told all their friends and they were like, ‘Oh, Bruno just got a big record deal…’ [he’s] I’m going to be famous,’ including things like that.
“This is not a story I’m unhappy about. It happens to 90% of people who get record deals.”
I find this interesting. Because it’s part of the deception of what a record deal is.if it breaks [record deal] Essentially, it’s a very expensive bank loan. But she is dressed up so gorgeously.
everyone knows [about it] when dropped. It was so hard to go home. I had the record prepaid, but I had no money because I had used it all. I didn’t have a career. There was no fan base at that point.
My confidence was really severely shattered. This is not the story of my unhappiness. It happens to 90% of people who get a record deal.
I’m not saying bad deals still don’t happen, but this was 10 years ago when deals were done a certain way and record labels had far more control over an artist’s chances of success than they do now. It is believed thatradio, news, etc.
Agree. I consider myself very lucky. Because he was in 2013 or he was in 2014 when all this happened. Because it was just before the transition period. [away] In the old fashion, when you get a record deal, [labels] You pay for your album, they put it on the radio, they pay for marketing and tours. And as a result, they take a portion of your income. That’s how it was.
It no longer works that way. [In Major’s view]the record trading system is still set up to basically provide an archaic system that doesn’t exist anymore.
When will you start making music again after being dropped? When do you start believing, “Oh, maybe I can build a small fan base, maybe I can make a living out of this again…”?
I remember it clearly. I put on my pants and sat on the sofa. I had a terrible hangover, which was not uncommon at that time in my life. And I was just thinking, “This is what it feels like, so what am I supposed to do here?” Them moment.
I had a little money left over from the record prepayment, so I used it to buy a laptop. I decided to learn how to create my own records using logic. I signed the contract from the back of the iPhone voice memo I uploaded to SoundCloud.So I went to YouTube and started watching [tutorial] I learned how to make it by watching the video. I spent his 18 months making really bad electronic music…that was my learning process.
“I was sitting on the couch in my pants.
I also wrote songs for other people. I wrote a song that ended up doing a session for an artist called Liv Dawson. tapestry, It became her first single.she was controlled by the method [Management]they liked the song and signed me [as a writer]. I had just signed a publishing deal with Sony.
In the same session, the producer was Phairo.
There were probably 500 songs that were never released. At this point, I was completely focused on my songwriting career and had completely given up on my career as an artist. But I thought, ‘What if I record these songs just for me?So [with Phairo] We made some songs and started putting them on the internet.
Sam [Bailey]The manager advised me to serve everything independently. That was the beginning of my artistic career.
How did you find the inner strength to say, ‘I’m going to learn to produce, I’m going to get a laptop, let’s start again’?
People always say that if you want to get into the music industry, you have to be skinny. And I feel like I have really thick skin.
Clearly, everyone has different levels of opportunities and privileges. And I don’t take it for granted.
But I could never have lived in a universe where I sat on my couch for five years. [on]still hungover and no career.
Let’s talk finances: When did you generally start realizing that you could make a living as an independent musician?
I have to give credit to my manager, Sam Bailey.because when we started [Major’s 2017 debut independent album, A Song For Every Moon], he was adamant that they should do it themselves. I had no money at all. So Sam lent me a few thousand dollars of personal property to put together a basic liberation plan.
He said they should do it independently because they believed they could make money by releasing it themselves through AWAL. And to his credit, it worked. So hats off to Sam for that matter.
Other than making great music, what do you think has made you financially stable as an independent artist?
I don’t want people to think I’m someone who criticizes major labels. Because I think it would be great if that system worked.and some artists [who need] Big teams, big machines, big budgets. [For that] you have to be part of the machine.
But to do what I’ve been doing and to be a part of it, to do it independently, you have to be a certain type of person.
When it comes to creative things, I do a lot myself. I co-write, but I write all the songs myself. All produced by myself using Phairo. I play all the instruments on those records. I mix everything myself.
“I can’t imagine anything worse than an A&R coming into my studio and telling me to turn up the snare.”
I don’t think everyone wants that. I don’t mean that I am better or worse than anyone else. But that’s how I do it.
To do this independently, perhaps, you need such insight, drive and determination. No one gets up in the morning and tells you to do it. You have to want to do it yourself.
I can’t imagine anything worse than an A&R coming into my studio and telling me to turn up the snare.
Before we started this conversation, you told me how you went through the 18-month process of writing, recording and finishing what would become your new album. In this age of streaming and social media, “posting as much music as often as possible” is becoming increasingly rare.
When Sam and I started this project, we created a manifesto. The first thing we wanted to achieve was making great art. The second was to monetize it as much as possible. Because I am a businessman and Sam is also a businessman. And that was really it.
I don’t care about being a big name artist, people calling my name when I’m in Tescos, being on the cover of a magazine, getting a statue – it really means nothing.
For me, the most important thing is to create something that when I’m done with my career, I can look back and say, ‘Oh, I really made this.
I think you can hear it in my music too. We are not aiming for something at a superficial level. I try to be honest, I try to be as good as I can.