I recently watched a video of T-Pain sharing how the music industry works in terms of an artist being signed to a record label. It was very interesting to hear him say that when an artist says they are controlled by a record company, they have to know what was in their contract before they sign. Now that the signature is on the dotted line, the artist is obligated to fulfill the terms of the contract. The record label is not going to release them without the artist meeting their obligation. I would encourage all artists to weigh the cost of signing with a record label.
There are some advantages to being an independent artist such as
Owning your own masters
Have full control over creative ideas and direction
Determining how you want to interface (you are a brand) with the public
But there also some hardships trying to carry the load on your own:
Generating funding for your project since you don't have the financial backing of a record label
You don't have the luxury of just being an "artist" but you also have to serve in administrative capacities as well: manager/promoter/radio tracker/social media coordinator/you get the picture...
Each artist will need to assess whether being independent or signing with a label works best for them