- Vedant Jhaveri
Independent vs. Labels
Which is right for you?
Whether you’re an up and coming artist or have already made a new for yourself in the music industry, knowing your contract and knowing what you can and cannot do is essential. You might have heard that your favorite artist is now going independent. But what does it really mean to be an independent artist?
Going independent means you are no longer signed to a particular label, and while this does have its advantages, it also has certain disadvantages. With the help of record labels, it becomes significantly easier for newer artists to grow their fan base. After all, it is your fans who are going to be the ones keeping your music on repeat. Artists can take advantage of the label’s existing marketing strategies as well as their networks. As a result, labels often help artists become more marketable and solidify their name in the music industry. Signing with major labels such as Atlantic Records, Universal Publishing Group, etc. already provides you with a certain reputation in the industry. But at what cost?
Being an independent artist means having creative control over your music, which is the reason a lot of artists have recently decided to go independent. As an independent artist you have complete control over the marketing, distribution, artwork, etc. Additionally, going independent means that after paying your team, you keep 100% of the profits from your career. Alongside this, as an independent artist you fully own your copyrights. More often than not, when signing your record deal, you are also signing away a portion of your rights to your music. This would mean the label has more authority when deciding who gets the profits from your music and how it is to be used.
2020 trends show us the shifting dynamics of the industry as more and more artists are choosing to go indie. Let’s put this into perspective. According to Hypebot, indie artists generated around $640 million in 2018 and by the end of 2020 are expected to generate over $2 Billion in streaming revenues. Additionally, independent music represented around 33% of the top 100 streams in 2019 which was an increase from 15% in the previous year.
One of the most successful artists to go independent is rapper Tech N9ne. Appearing on Forbes’ annual “Hip-Hop Cash Kings” list, Tech N9ne has been compared to industry legends such as Eminem, Jay Z, Birdman, etc. all without signing to a major label. Another great example of an independent artist is Frank Ocean who in 2016 split with his record label, Def Jam to strike out on his own.
As more and more artists switch to indie music, it is time to make a choice. Going indie as well as signing to a traditional record label both have their pros and cons. Recently it seems like the narrative has shifted and there has been a noticeable rise in streaming numbers generated via indie artists. Is this the new norm? At least for now, it looks like it is.
“Fun Fact: TikTok has proven to be the most effective social media for independent artists as the app has crossed over 1 billion users in 150+ countries.”