The presence of big business is almost always met with apprehension by those who hold the “indie” label so dear. Indieness is seen as something outside the mainstream so to take away the abstraction of the music defeats the purpose to many. Hesmondhalgh points out that there is a perception that major music labels take indie artists and make them more mainstream and there seems to be some credence to that claim.
Take the band Crossfade for example; they have been signed under both a major label and a more minimajor style label. Unlike many, Crossfade moved from the major label to the independent label. Their first two albums were released under Columbia Records, who was a major label eventually bought out by Sony. The first, self-titled album they released with Columbia was quite successful and two of the songs received airtime. At that time they had a somewhat unique sound but there was nothing extremely profound in their music, just a typical rock band. However, Columbia dropped them and they were then signed under the independent label Eleven Seven Label.
With the new label came a more unique sound for Crossfade. In the past their songs had been somewhat heavy sounding but their lyrics didn’t always mimic the sound, but that all changed with the album We All Bleed released through Eleven Seven. This album possessed more edgy lyrics that tended to push the envelope. For example, the most famous song off the album “Dear Cocaine” deals quite bluntly with the difficulties of Cocaine addiction. Also, Crossfade’s style of music moved towards a heavy yet slower paced style that gave it a more indie feel. So in this case the indie label resulted in a more free and indie album than they had previously released.
I think the label under which a band is signed definitely has an effect on the final product. However, the degree to which the label affects the band’s sound seems to be up to the band. There are plenty of examples of bands who have signed with varying labels whose sound remained more or less consistent. One of those bands is Devildriver. They were under a large label early on and slowly moved towards a more metal focused label but their sound has stayed consistent throughout the years. Overall there is a move to push a more mainstream sound under a larger label but it can be dampened by a stubborn, yet successful, band.