Depending on how you look at it, new figures from Midea Research examining the total revenue for recorded music last year are either good news or bad news for indie DIY artists. As the study points out, DIY artists who release music through Tunecore, CD Baby and Bandcamp took in a total of $472 million last year, but that’s only 2.7% of the $17.4 billion that the entire recorded music industry earned.
When you look at that number, what immediately comes to mind is that an artist or band is much better off with a label. That said, indie DIY revenue did jump a whopping 27% from the year before.
The fact is that if you combine the total revenue from both indie DIY artists and indie labels, it adds up to a substantial $5.3 billion. To put that into perspective, Universal Music brought in $5.2 billion last year, Warner Music did $3.1 billion, and Sony Music earned $3.6 billion.
This shows that you can indeed make money as an indie artist by going it alone, but you’ll probably do better if you sign to an indie label and better still if you sign to a major label.
Then again, remember that the total amount that’s taken in by a label doesn’t all trickle down to its artists, so the total amount of money earned can be deceiving. The only thing you know for sure when you see the pie growing larger is that more money is going to trickle down to the artists as well.
One thing of note – total industry streaming revenues grew 39% to $7.4 billion in 2017, which represents 43% of global wholesale revenues. Streaming adoption is increasing at a breakneck speed that will likely continue for some time. Those streams may only be generating a fraction of a cent each, but the numbers prove that they really add up over time.