Times sure are changing in the music business.
Not too long ago, you had to have the backing of a major label if you wanted to have a successful career.
Sure, there have always been independent artists that have managed to survive without a label, with varied levels of success. But look at some of the biggest names in country music right now and you see more and more people who are having absolutely massive success and selling out tours without ever signing a record deal with a label.
And one of the best examples is Muscadine Bloodline.
The duo made up of Gary Stanton and Charlie Muncaster from Alabama have managed to build something incredible over the past few years, from their self-titled EP back in 2017 all the way through their killer new album Teenage Dixie.
The first time I ever saw these guys live, they were opening for an up-and-coming act named Luke Combs at a bar in Alabama. Now, they’re selling out their own shows all across the country and hitting the road to open up for names like Turnpike Troubadours and Eric Church.
And they’ve done it all without a record label.
Charlie and Gary recently stopped by the Whiskey Riff Raff podcast to discuss life as an independent artist – and why they prefer it that way.
“We’re kind of coming up to this point, it’s like, we have a gold record and we’re about to have another one. “Porch Swing Angel” is going to be platinum within a year. And it’s just crazy to think. And that’s never been playlisted, never been on radio. It’s just the pure war of attrition.
It’s just stick to your guns. It’s not even a thought.”
That’s not to say that the temptation wasn’t there when they were first starting out – but now, with the guys owning all of the rights to their own music, the know that they’re better off doing it own their own:
“We don’t even have a conversation about – we used to have the, “Well, what if something would happen?”
It’s just like, one, candidly, we make enough, and it just keeps getting more.
So it’s like, man, let’s just do this and own it all, and then when we’re 40 let’s just sell the catalog for an ungodly amount and call it a day.”
Sounds like the right move to me. If you’re in a position to do it, why not own all of your own shit and make all of the money off of it for yourself instead of paying some record label exec’s salary to do what you’re already doing anyway?
Of course when you’re as successful as Muscadine Bloodline have become, obviously you’re going to start getting interest from labels. And the guys admit that they’ve had some interest from major labels:
“There’s been some nibbles that trickle in every now and then. And they’re names that you’re like “Holy shit, that’s cool.”
It’s flattering, but at the same time, it just doesn’t make sense.”
Gary also mentioned that after “Me On You” went absolutely mega-viral on TikTok, labels started trying to set up meetings with the guys – but the interest wasn’t exactly mutual:
“People started seeing what was happening once that song came out and then we were having A&R people from L.A., New York City, they were all showing up to these shows.
They would get in touch with our manager and he would be like ‘I mean, the guys don’t want to meet or have a steak dinner.'”
I love it. I can just imagine these hotshots are used to calling the shots and getting whatever they want being turned away at the door by an artist who has no interest in what they’re selling. A much-needed bruise to some egos, I’m sure.
“They would be like, ‘This is very unconventional how this goes.’ And [our manager] goes, ‘Well these guys just aren’t looking for it, and you called us.'”
“It was actually hilarious. He was like, ‘So and so from this XYZ label called, and I told him y’all don’t give a shit, but they still want to meet you. So can they just come meet?’
Like yeah, sure, we’ll say hey to ’em or whatever.”
And that’s got to be such a great spot to be in. You have these people who are considered to be the most powerful people in your industry, and you don’t have to care what they think. Sure, the validation is probably cool, but by remaining an independent artist you can keep doing what you want to do and reaping the benefits for yourself.
“The irony of it is, once you read through the contract, you’re like “Ok, you’re offering me this X amount of dollars to make, let’s say, two records.” And it’s like, we make this much money already. We don’t need the money.
We don’t need to go make a $2 million record. It’s like, why would we do that? We have our way that we like to do it.”
Amen. In the end, being able to do things the way you like to do them is so much more important than trying to satisfy a record label.
After all, it’s that authenticity that fans crave anyway. Making the kind of music that you like to make, that fans can relate to – that’s what’s going to put asses in seats.
And it seems to be working pretty damn well for Muscadine Bloodline so far. Why change it up now?
Check out that entire conversation, and much more, on the latest episode of Whiskey Riff Raff: