Being an indie artist can be looked at two ways – it’s either a badge of honor for having control over your own career destiny, or it’s someone that can’t get signed by a major label so they’re forced to do it themselves. Many choose the former point of view and prefer to stay outside the system, and it’s those artists that fight for the monicker of “indie” to be displayed at every chance. Digital music distributor Record Union has now launched a campaign to get streaming services not to pay higher royalties, but for the ability to tag a song on a playlist as from an independent artist or label.
In an open letter, the Record Union described how there’s already a tag for explicit content so a separate indie tag shouldn’t be that difficult to implement.
The move is in response to a survey that discovered that most independent artists believe that streaming playlists favor major label artists and indie artists need some way to stand out. Indeed, the global market share for indie music is just under 30%, yet that share drops to just under 20% on streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and others. Plus, indie artists generally have a much smaller or even non-existent marketing budget as compared to an artist on a major label or subsidiary.
While it’s admirable that indie artists want to differentiate themselves, a playlist tag might not actually do much in terms of getting additional streams. There’s no evidence that music consumers actually look for indie artists over label artists, even though their tastes may favor that type of music more. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen, just that there’s no data for it yet.
It’s true that many artists are independent by choice in order to have more control over their music, but that freedom also brings several downsides as well. The Record Union campaign is trying to even things out a bit.