The Rise of Independent Artists.

By: Andisile Klaas


In the past, stories of big artists living rich and dying broke have riddled media outlets so frequently that the traditional music corporate structure has become undesirable to many. Record labels, like just any business, want to make profit but sometimes unethical practises are used to achieve those numbers. The unethical ways of a company have proven to be detrimental to an artist, one of the factors that motivated independence. The following seeks to evaluate the rise of independence in the music, as well as the pros and the cons of being an independent artist.

A number of factors come into play when an artist considers being an independent artist and the corrupt system and unethical practises of recording labels being the most common. Music companies have a long history of preying on unknown artists and offer them deals that many would view as exploitative as they are liable for every single aspect of their careers, these artists take that opportunity and see it as a way to advance and building a brand for themselves.

Music companies see artists as investments and can take ownership of an artist’s intellectual property, as an example, an artist not being able to perform songs that they are famous for because of a deal that went sour with their former label. These shady deals starve artists and prevents them from profiting from their hard work.

Ownership remains a huge problem in the music industry because not only can a company take ownership of your music, they can even take ownership of your name. In 1993, amidst a contractual dispute with his record label Warner Bros, pop star Prince changed his named into an unpronounceable symbol because the company owned the trademark and had control over it. He then changed his name back to Prince in 2000 when his contract with Warner expired. Prince has since then championed for independency.

The advantages of being independent

The term “independent” is quite self-explanatory, it means an artist is free of the traditional music corporate system and has full control over his/her brand. The freedom and control that comes with being independent goes far beyond creative control, it also transcends to the business side of things from management. PR and Finance. Being independent also enables an artist to have full ownership of the intellectual property and brand.

The rise of social media and the advancement of technology has enabled independent artists to market themselves and their music to much bigger crowds using cost-effective methods. Since the dawn of the internet, multiple platforms have come up for artists to use to their benefit. Streaming services like Soundcloud enables the public to listen  to the sounds of emerging artists for free and this has been to the advantage of independent artists who have a hard time of making it to mainstream radio.

The disadvantages of being independent as an artist

Independency, in any sense of the word, requires full commitment, sacrifice and dedication. Artists who are signed under companies only worry about the creative side while the company takes care of business and for independent artists that is completely the opposite as they have to take full control of everything from being creating down to hiring and firing.

The lack of funding and working with limited resources is a huge issue for unknown artists as companies are afraid to invest in someone that doesn’t have the backing of reputable company. Companies offer their artists full publicity and even radio play, while independent artists go out and look for opportunities themselves.

The impact of independency outside music

The independent artists movement has transcended far beyond music in the recent years as now the public see the rise of independent magazines, books and even radio stations. As an example, magazines like Boat and Offscreen are all ran independently and they may not be popular as the rest but they are doing well and they are fan favourites.

In conclusion, the independent artists movement is rising by full force and it seems to be the perfect solution for artists who love making music that is authentic to who they are without the pressure of producing a radio hit and those who want to be free of corporate politics. Independent artists such as Dawn Richard and Brent Faiyaz are successful artists with crirically acclaimed albums without having a labels, which proves to show that believing in yourself can go a long way.


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Dannen, F (1990). Hit Men, New York: Random House Inc.

Thall, P,M. What they’ll never tell you about the music business: the myths, the secrets, the lies (and a few truths). Minneapolis: Watson-Guptill Publication, Inc.

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