Independent Artists | The Age of Empowerment

Key takeaways

  • A sector with real scale. Artists without record labels generated $643.1 million in 2018, up 35% from 2017. These independent artists represent the fastest-growing segment of the global recorded music business, a segment of global scale with real impact and influence. They are also more streaming native than label artists.
  • Culture first, cash second. Artists’ definition of success is very much culture first, then cash. They are looking for respect and recognition first and foremost. With this respect and recognition, they can become viable touring acts with the chance to earn loyal fan bases.
  • Labels are not a prerequisite. So, what about the role of labels? Artists now view labels very much as one possible means to an end. Less than a third of independent artists consider it important to be signed to a label, while for label artists this rises to a little more than half.
  • Earnings are the biggest obstacle. It is just as well that artists take a culture first, cash second attitude as most artists should not expect to earn a living from music without something close to divine intervention. Nearly three quarters of independent artists earn less than $10,000 a year from music, and average incomes are also low even for signed artists.
  • Artists’ income streams vary widely. Streaming income, along with earnings from live performances, make up the majority of artist revenues today. For independent artists, streaming is now their primary source of income at 30%.
  • Signing to a label is not enough for artists’ financial security. Being signed to a label often does little to ease an artist’s financial woes. Overwhelmingly, both independent and label artists do not feel that they earn enough from music to not worry about their financial situation.
  • Don’t give up the day job. Most artists have ‘plural careers’. Whether signed to a label or not, over two thirds of artists feel they will have to keep up other work alongside music in order to make ends meet.
  • The age of artist empowerment has arrived. Despite the challenges of a music career, the vast majority of artists now feel they have more control over their careers than ever before. With their choices both increasing and improving, nearly two-thirds of artists have a positive outlook about their career path.
  • Artists want to listen. The modern-day artist has the flexibility and freedom to make choices – but how do they make the right choices? While the vast majority of artists do not want to lose creative control, most of them are open to influence and advice about their creative direction.