More and more artists and bands are going the indie label route these days, some by choice and others by the fact that the pathways to a major label are perhaps more limited than ever. This is clearly shown in Mark Mulligan’s latest post that reveals that indie labels contributed just a touch under 40% to the global music economy at the end of last year.
This amounts to almost $7 billion, but that figure doesn’t show up in other industry reports put out by industry associates such as the IFPI or RIAA (which only looks at the U.S.). Mulligan’s figures also includes money that isn’t tracked from CD and vinyl sold directly at gigs and online, and from artist DIY platforms like Bandcamp.
Then there’s the fact that major chunks of revenue that appear on major label financials statements are really a result of the indie labels that they distribute, so it’s easy to get misled into thinking that the recorded music world is more major-centric than it really is.
There’s no doubt about what’s fueling indie music’s growth though, and that’s streaming, just like for the majors. In what mirrors what’s going on with the Big 3, streaming was up 46% while physical sales were down 2% and downloads cratered at -22% from the previous year.
None of this is news at this point, but Mulligan’s report did find one interesting tidbit that needs to be noted. Indie artists are actually fiercely loyal to their labels, with 77% choosing to renew their contracts. That rate is actually above 90% in Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands and Denmark!
As said here before, given the choice most artists would probably go with a major label under the right circumstances, given the marketing muscle and infrastructure that a major can bring. However, there’s a lot to be said for smaller indie labels as well, since you can’t beat the loyalty of a label owner that you know won’t be under the threat of leaving during a corporate sweep. Loyalty begets loyalty, it seems.