Making it in the music industry is no easy task. It takes tact, diligence, talent, and of course, brilliant marketing and promotions. There was a time it was difficult for independent artists to really make a profit without being signed, or playing an unknown amount of underground concerts and shows before being noticed by big time record label agents like Universal and Warner. Bands like Nirvana began as independent artists and promoted their sound through local radio play, concerts, touring, and demo tapes.
Today, the enormous technological development of the internet over the last 30 years has made it a lot easier to have instant access to content, particularly with the emergence of social media sites. Independent artists now have a greater advantage to build their fanbase via reddit and other forums, but by using online streaming websites. Avid music junkies can listen to their favourite artists at the tap of a screen. Streaming websites like Apple Music, Google Play, Tidal, Sound cloud, YouTube, and Spotify to name a few, have helped launch the careers of artists including Chance the Rapper, Skepta, and Misterwives to start. Gone are the days of relying on major record label deals for a “big break”; the age of the online streaming is now!
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, our first taste of Peer to Peer (P2P) file sharing over the internet was seen with online programs like Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire. Granted, those have now lead the way to the streaming websites we currently have, most popular being Spotify and Apple Music.
As of 2015, Spotify was worth $8.4 billion, more than the US recorded music industry, along with funding through paid subscriptions and ads. It also has 50 million paid subscriptions. It should also be noted that Apple music had more than 20 million paid subscriptions as of December 2016. While still engaging in digital downloads, artists are now utilizing these streaming services as a means to make their discographies and new releases more easily accessible for their fans. In 2014, Jay- Z’s Tidal really changed music streaming for everyone, as it was the first artist owned streaming service, and allowed higher royalties to be given to artists for their music. Another honourable mention is the online music distribution platform Soundcloud. It allows artists to upload, share, and promote their music for free. Services like Soundcloud allow you to share content across platforms (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.), which is beneficial for the independent artist looking to share content all over their domains and social media.
So why is this important? Well, when you’re not signed, it can be difficult to get access to resources that allow for mass promotion and marketing of one’s music. With social media and online streaming/ distribution platforms, artists are able to gain fans from anywhere around the world. It also allows for the direct interaction between artist and fans, as to how their music is being received. When we look at artists who set the bar for independents, we have to look at the brilliance behind Chance the Rapper. He continues to build his fan base, and stay connected through his social media channels, forums, and all of his music has been put out for free. There hasn’t been a digital purchase for his music, and he strictly makes money through touring and branding. He did all of this without ever being signed, and has gone on to win a Grammy.
So here’s to the independent who strives to remain independent. May your marketing and promo game be one that is solid and sound.