‘Self-releasing artists may be suffering from a false economy.’

The following MBW blog – encouraging independent artists to more readily embrace the prospect of working with independent labels – comes from Paul Pacifico (pictured), CEO of the UK-based Association of Independent Music (AIM).

Independent Artists are becoming a significant economic force in the global recorded music market.

According to Midia Research, self-releasing acts represented a 2.7% worldwide market share in 2017, with combined revenues of almost $500m.

These ‘self-releasing’ artists distribute through a raft of services that offer low cost access to the world’s music digital music stores such as Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer etc.

However, there is potentially a false economy here driven by an inherent mistrust of the music industry – mostly caused by the major labels.

It is a fact that independent artists and labels can take advantage of the best rates in the market by joining collective independent structures such as Merlin.

According to the most recent Wintel report, this growing community of mutually reinforcing entrepreneurs now makes up the biggest single slice of the global market with a 38.4% share by content ownership. 

Artists self-releasing outside of this framework are potentially missing out on key cost savings and expertise that could be helping them do so much better than they are at the moment.

“artist careers grow, they need the right commercial partners to help elevate their businesses”

As artist careers grow, they need the right commercial partners to help elevate their businesses and make them more efficient – this is true for any start-up driven by a creative business owner.

My concern is that self-releasing artists are all having to reinvent the wheel, spending more than they need to on essential services, wasting money in the wrong areas and not maximising the returns they get for their hard work.

This is, of course, very understandable – record labels historically have a terrible reputation for forcing artists into punitive deals.

Thankfully, things have evolved and two key things have changed.

Firstly, the old world verticals in the commercial landscape have largely broken down and the old-fashioned idea of a label is on the way out.

There is now a much more contemporary landscape of artist-centric commercial partners who have elements of labels, publisher, management and live, with real expertise in each area and the ability to tailor each deal to suit the needs and aspirations of the individual artist.

“Independent labels may not have the cash the majors do, but the numbers show time and time again that they use the cash they do have far more effectively.”

Independents have driven this change, shoulder to shoulder with artists, where the larger corporations have lagged behind.

The second key development is a keener understanding within the independent sector of where its real value lies.

Independent labels may not have the cash the majors do, but the numbers show time and time again that they use the cash they do have far more effectively.

It’s a reasonable assertion that £1 spent by an indie is worth more than £100 spent by a major.

It’s also worth noting that alongside this basic efficiency, the artists tend to keep much more creative control and find a sympathetic partner who works with the artist, not above them.

The value-added services of these expert businesses (like Brownswood and Sunday Best, for example) remain essential to long term career growth – A&R, promo, marketing and an established global business network allow artists to have their cake and eat it.

By working with an independent label, they retain creative control and expect and receive a well-balanced deal accompanied by high levels of accountability and transparency.

Ground-breaking commitments to transparent and equitable relationships such as The Fair Digital Deals Declaration (FD3) coupled with the independent sector’s continued levels of investment in nurturing talent over the long term, demonstrate that time and time again, no matter how well artists can do on their own, they should consider how much better they might do with the right commercial partnership.Music Business Worldwide

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