The music industry as we know it is gone. The record companies who have dominated the scene for so many years are slowly but surely being replaced by the rise of independent musicians and labels. We now live in an age with the highest consumption of music per capita yet creators have never made less money than they currently do. In addition to this; it has never before been possible for the average person to write, record and promote their music from their bedroom with minimal investment.
This is an age of awareness. An age that does not bode well for the record labels and entertainment moguls that have dominated the scene since recorded music hit the mainstream. We have seen the #metoo movement sweep the entertainment industry, we saw pop star Kesha come clean about the abuse she received for years at the hands of her manager and Taylor Swift’s public fallout with Scooter Braun over the ownership of her masters. With lower pay-outs, hectic touring schedules and an industry that feels like it needs a deep clean of COVID-19 levels the independent scene has never been more attractive to new artists.
Being an independent artist no longer means underpaid gigs in a smoky bar and blurry guitar covers on YouTube. With the leaps in technology and home recording studios and the introduction of SoundCloud and Spotify the world can hear a track you wrote today in your bedroom that same day and you are then eligible to receive all the royalties that come with it. Look up any popular song today and you will find at least twenty unlicensed covers by independent artists to accompany your search. Services like CD Baby and Distro Kid can have your song on all streaming platforms in a matter of days with no differentiation between a new artist and the top of the charts. This is a golden age for anyone with a dream and a decent internet connection.
It’s not just the up and comers that utilise this but the stars too. Chance the Rapper made his name as an independent artist and has become one of the most influential figures in music today. Travis Scott runs his own label: Cactus Jack, as does Jay-Z with Roc Nation. Not only does this ensure full control over the financial aspects of music but also unchallenged creative control. If it’s possible to produce and distribute without labels, when marketing costs next to nothing on social media websites and publishing is taken care of by Performance Rights Organisations what can a label provide these days that is worth the huge cut they take from your earnings?
Yet there is a downside to this new sense of freedom given to artists today. The fear of an oversaturation of the market. Now that it is as easy to be on Spotify as it is to be on YouTube, will it really continue to be seen as a premium platform that the consumer believes it’s worth paying for? When you cannot search for anything without finding another cover or poorly recorded demo. Will it not lead to big stars simply migrating to a different platform altogether where they can dominate the search results yet again? This service has become a dream for independent artists who want to take the hard road and do everything themselves and it just seems as though we must screen those who release on there to keep it for finished pieces and well recorded, licensed covers. Otherwise we risk it losing all that it has come to stand for.