How Independent Music Labels Work

Independent music labels or indies as most people commonly refer to them are record labels that are independently funded and run and are not connected to the major music labels around the world such as Sony, Universal, Warner among others. Indie labels are mainly operated by individuals or a group of people, and it ranges from the home-based production units to large business that concentrates on producing music mainly from upcoming artists who may not get an opportunity to work with large production lines. Undoubtedly, in this day and age, there is a very thin line between the independent labels and major production units with some of the labels produced by big indie labels being distributed by some of the major labels around the world.

Indies face stiff competition from major music labels mainly because they have fewer resources, especially financial strength, to promote their music. However, in spite of these challenges, some indies continue to survive in the music industry and those that have not been able to survive they have contributed greatly to the music industry especially in terms of business and creativity.

History of Independent Labels

Indies have existed for a long time, and some can be traced back to the post-war era. During this time, the independent labels would spot artists who were considered not so good for the mainstream music industry with indies such as the Sun which was founded in 1950 signing artists who were performing rock and country music genres. Some notable artists who were signed by the label include Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison. Most of the independent labels continue to operate using this model where they identity fringe artists and sign them to their records.

Britain was the hotbed for independent labels which saw the creation of some notable labels in the 1960s and 70s. Some individual artists also went ahead and created their own labels such as Elton John who created The Rockets Record Company and The Beatles who created Apple Records. However, the former did not do so well in the music industry, leading to its closure in 2007.

In the 1980s-90s, more people were now beginning to understand the records and music industry. This period also saw the rise of rap artists whore was signed by independent labels such as Bad Boys and Def Jam records. Madonna, through her own independent label Maverick Records also helped other upcoming artists produce great hits that are still popular to date.

Major vs Independent Labels

Independent labels may not be profitable on their own because of their limited resources. However, a recent survey by Digital News shows that independent labels combined have a larger revenue base as compared to the three individual major records, which are Sony, Universal and Warner. There is no known figure of the number of independent labels around the world, especially with the rise of digital music where artists are now able to make their own labels. With a little starting capital its also now easy to start an independent recording label as you only require recording equipment, a studio and a few artists to start you off. Undoubtedly when it comes to selling or promoting your music, it has now become easy as the digital space is nowadays outshining the physical music distribution channels making it both cost-saving and the ability to reach a larger audience.