Independent Artists are The Future - and The Wave, of The Music Industry
It’s the dawn of the digital age and independent artists are dismantling the barriers of the music industry - but now without the aid of major labels. With numerous digital platforms available; independent musicians are becoming the future of the music industry.
Whether it’s the money, fame, or fans; the reason behind the pursuit of stardom for most varies. However, one goal remains a shared commodity amongst artists - and that’s success. The narrative has always been that one could advance further and quicker with the backing of a label. The stereotypes would tend to lead towards one end of the blueprint or the other; either you’re a world- famous, multi-city touring rockstar - or you’re an aspiring artist still trying to obtain career goals while finding the balance to maintain. While the traditional record deal route has yielded countless billion-dollar success stories, we’re also aware that there’s another side to the tumultuous industry. With the current state of the culture amplifying such a “DIY success” route, and the progressing lack of trust of the music industry - many are taking the indie artist path.
With so many alternative opportunities, and digital platforms available; more musicians are making their way into the business without the aid of a label. The desperate days of needing a record label are gone. With numerous digital stores now available, as well as the social media platform being at their disposal, many artists are acquiring success while obtaining more revenue
and maintaining ownership of their content. Proprietorship isn’t the only reason many are seeking the road (once) less traveled. Another entity of the industry that didn’t fall in the favorable section with artists was streaming royalties - or lack thereof for that matter. Usually, when you’d hear of an artist expressing dismay over their streaming royalties - 9 times out of 10, they were signed to a label. When you are signed to a record label, you are only receiving very little of what you actually earned. A label could yield a 20 percent return of royalties; meaning if someone made $10 million dollars from one song, they would only see about (ROUGHLY) $2 million back after advances and reparations are taken out. While there are some who witness the reception of major streams and sales unsigned - there are those who are distraught and unhappily locked into a five- album deal that was constructed five years ago or more when the music industry was at a different point. Artists such as Chance The Rapper have served as walking testimonies, and their success has attested to the fact that consideration should be given to the indie route more. The increased growth and progression is representing a portentous change that will impact the industry immensely - and the revolution will be streamed.
Now, where there are pros - there are sure to be cons. The definition of what an independent musician entails is more complicated than what meets the eye - or blog pages. Though indie artists now make up nearly 40 percent of the global music industry, what it means to actually classify as an independent artist is still blurred. Does being an indie artist mean you own all your masters and distribution? Or does it apply to artists signed to independent labels? Initially, the indie wave was heavily pursued due to the fact that artists and bands wanted to protect their art without sacrificing it by the hands of the label. Now, that motive is still in line, but so is revenue. With the barrier of entry more accessible now and point of revenue to the artist more direct - many are becoming empowered with courage to chase their dreams without the backing of a label. However, in this brave and convenient world of streaming services, merchandise, brand partnerships, and sponsorships; survival is still key. You have to figure it out - and you can’t do it alone. Not only are you responsible for curating your art, but you’re also responsible for developing your image so that you have a clear understanding of your brand and the message, but you must also develop a team. Though we live for a good “well Prince did it all, himself” rebuttal - you. are. not. Prince. - and I mean that in the sweetest way possible. Independence doesn’t mean omitting a team and doing everything on your own. From PR, management, engineering, production; and simply the overall production of content - it’s imperative to develop a genuine and knowledgeable team who share a legitimate intent to see you win. Also, while the plays are significant, so are the people. There’s no major label projecting you as the next hottest trend, therefore it’s up to you to build an organic fanbase. Now, understand - being independent is far from easy (in every aspect of the word) but it can be extremely humbling and rewarding.
At the end of the day, numbers and stats don’t lie - well, for the most part - so it’s simple to google and research the benefits and downsides to the industry. However, at the end of the day, it’s about what works best for your particular situation. Though if you are feeling a bit weary due to the lack of attention or support of a major record label, know and remember that the platform has been expanded and the possibilities and opportunities are no longer limited to labels but are being reaped by indie artists as well. It’s extremely important to know yourself, your art, and your value - remember, labels need you more than you need them.
Written By: Jessica Payne