The rise of independent music artists (updated 2024)

Written By: CalypsoRoom Editorial Team - January 2024

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Table of content

1. Introduction
2. Independent music artists are driving the expansion of streaming
3. Shift in market share
4. How streaming has given independent music artists more opportunities
5. How streaming has changed the entire music industry
6. Conclusion
7. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The rise of independent music artists (updated 2024) - Introduction

In the past, to succeed in the music industry, you needed to be under the wing of a big record label with the resources to promote your music.

Artists struggled to get noticed by big names in the industry so they were not able to have their shots.

J.Cole once said he waited outside Jay Z’s studio in 2007 for almost 2 hours just to give him is mix tape.

And when he finally saw Jay Z and handed him the mix tape, Jay Z looked at him and said “Man, I don’t want that.”

That was the typical story of almost every big artist that became famous over 2 decades ago. They had to get through the “O.Gs” in the game to make it to the top.

But the game has changed now!

Independent artists are the ones carrying the industry. And they don’t seem to be relenting.

Over 9.5 million tracks were released by independent music artists around the world in 2020, 8 times more than the 1.1 million tracks released by major labels.

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The rise of independent music artists (updated 2024)

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Despite a decline in sales in the early pandemic months, the recorded music sector recovered in the remaining months of the year, marking the sixth year in a straight of gain.

In record label trade revenue figures, worldwide recorded music sales increased 9% in 2022 to $26.2 billion. And most of that revenue was generated by independent sound recording owners.

Let’s take a closer look at how independent music artists are influencing the industry and the amount of growth they have contributed in recent years.

Independent music artists are driving the expansion of streaming

Revenue from streaming services totaled $25.1 billion, in 2021 and, as a result, streaming revenue growth continued to accelerate in 2022.

However, Spotify's revenue growth decreased in 2022, indicating that the company is now meaningfully underperforming in the market as a result of the emergence of local players in emerging markets and the rapid growth of YouTube music.

Independent music artists are driving the expansion of streaming

The major labels underperformed in the streaming market for the first time, albeit not all majors were equally impacted.

Warner Music Group (WMG) and Universal Music Group (UMG) both performed significantly worse than Sony Music Entertainment (SME), which was totally in line with the rise of the streaming business.

But how have they influenced a shift in the market share for record labels?

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Shift in market share

The majors and Merlin's proportion of Spotify streams decreased significantly in the last years as a consequence of the independent artists rise.

In fact, 87% of Spotify's total streams in 2017 were from the big labels and Merlin; however, that percentage dropped to 85% in 2018, 82% in 2019, 78% in 2020, 77% in 2021, and 75% in 2022.

Not only is there a new growth pattern in the recorded music industry emerging, but there is also a new breed of independent copyright owners emerging.

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Shift in market share

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The headline states that independents' (copyright owners) market share increased from 29.7% to 31.1% in 2020. The percentage in 2018 was 28.3%. Gained market share is over three full points.

In a rapidly expanding sector like streaming, large revenue growth is required to fuel such significant movements in market share.

According to Spotify data, majors increased by 14%, Merlin decreased by 3%, artists direct increased by 28%, and non-Merlin independents increased by 49%.

As a result, the biggest winners in the last years were artists direct and non-Merlin independents.

Compared to larger, more established organizations, these two divisions have learned how to exploit their smaller scale to be agile and play to the specific rhythms of streaming.

They are the new vanguard of music strategy for the streaming era.

Now all the stats and figures aside, how did we get here? What changed? How are Independent sound recording owners now topping the game the “O.Gs?”

You guessed right – streaming!

Shift in market share

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How streaming has given independent music artists more opportunities

The opportunity for artists and labels of all sizes to access international audiences is the undeniable advantage of the streaming era.

However, the majority of small record labels lack the size and resources necessary to directly license and distribute to streaming services, therefore they instead turn to the rapidly growing market for digital distributors.

The major record companies have made a name for themselves in this market as essential players, distributing independent labels directly or through their distribution networks.

The value that they give to independents is evident, but the revenue passes via the majors’ accounts, and thus major label revenues are inflated by independent revenue, thereby inflating the market share of the majors.

“With the help of the data we collected for our independent label survey, we were able to separate the majors' total revenue from this "embedded" distributed independent label revenue in order to determine the "actual" market share of independent labels, which is based on who owns the copyright rather than just who distributes it”.

Here you can find the full report from Media that explains how independent labels and artists are bigger than what we might think.

How streaming has changed the entire music industry

A decade or two ago, fans of music had three options: buy physical records, purchase tracks and albums on an online store like iTunes, or downloading them illegally for free compromising the security of their computers as well.

All of that has altered since then.

Music streaming, which has also fundamentally altered how customers listen to and purchase music, has shaken up the music industry.

Customers may now access music at a much lower cost than was previously possible thanks to music streaming services, which offer millions of recordings from tens of thousands of artists for a monthly subscription fee.

How streaming has changed the entire music industry

For instance, the two most well-known music streaming services, Apple Music and Spotify Premium, each have monthly fees of around $11, as opposed to $1 for each song on iTunes.

Similar to how Netflix and Hulu impacted how people watch television and movies, music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music have transformed how people listen to music.

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The rise of independent music artists - Conclusion

Music streaming services are used and favoured all over the world. So, as long as streaming platforms keep growing in popularity, we can expect independent artists to keep churning off the larger market share in the music industry.

Please take the time to browse our blog area for many more resources, information, and recommendations on the music industry as a whole.

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It's completely free, you retain full ownership of your copyright, and you will get a new source of income from the use of your music on the platform.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the article "The rise of independent music artists" about?

The article discusses the rising popularity of independent musicians in the music business as well as the factors that contribute to their success.

Who are independent music artists?

Independent musicians are those that produce and release their own music on their own terms, without the assistance of a large record label or entertainment business.

Why are independent music artists on the rise?

Independent music artists are becoming more popular for a number of reasons, including the simplicity of using platforms for music distribution, the rising popularity of self-promotion on social media, and shifting perceptions of the traditional music industry.

How do independent music artists distribute their music?

Independent musicians have access to a variety of online distribution channels, including Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and Spotify, as well as tangible formats like CDs and vinyl records.

What are some challenges faced by independent music artists?

Independent musicians must manage all part of music creation and promotion themselves and are constrained by a lack of funding, visibility, and exposure.

Can independent music artists achieve success without the support of a record label?

Yes, independent musicians can be successful without a record label's help. Independent musicians may develop a devoted fan following and find success on their own terms with the aid of social media, live concerts, and innovative marketing techniques.

How has the rise of independent music artists affected the traditional music industry?

The emergence of independent musicians has driven the traditional music business to change to meet customer needs and shifting market trends. In addition to being more receptive to novel and creative business strategies, record labels and music businesses are now more eager to sign independent musicians.

What is the future of independent music artists?

With the continuous expansion of social media and online music distribution, as well as shifting attitudes about the traditional music industry, the future of independent musicians appears bright. Independent musicians are expected to have a bigger and more powerful role in the music business.

#market #musicartists #independentmusicartists


Written by CalypsoRoom Editorial Team
The CalypsoRoom Editorial Team is a skilled and diverse group of writers, researchers, and industry specialists who have access to Calypso's data and information in order to give you broad knowledge about the music industry as well as helpful advice to help you manage your music and dancing career.

Updated January 2024

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