Independent artists had their moment in 2021 with services catering to their needs reaching sky-high valuations, more instruments to help them fine-tune, distribute and market their art and more data showing their growing importance in the industry.
The latest data coming from MIDia Research (link) show that independent artists on an ownership basis have a 43.1% market share a continuous and considerable increase from 2018 (the last data available) of 41.3%. Bad record deals, an array of tools, the ease of streaming, the rise of TikTok and many other factors have pushed many artists to start and stay independent throughout their music career.
The distribution tools like DistroKid, United Masters, Ditto Music and more have made it very accessible to any artist to distribute to all main platforms and help them monetize on their music. This is also reflected through the valuations that these companies have reached, with the example of United Masters which markets itself as anti-label, raising 100 million dollars in two separate rounds and increasing its pre-money valuation from $300MN to $500MN in the span of 7 months.
Furthermore, community and collaboration tools like Rapchat and Landr allow artists to work with hundreds of other musicians to get feedback on their track, improve it and test it on a focus group before releasing it to the public. With services like these gaining traction, one is worth wondering about the life cycle of a release and how it might change in the future.
Besides, with more free sample tracks, sounds and noises to incorporate in a track, one can be very creative with the production of their song and ask the community for their feedback before spending any of the limited budget that an independent artist usually has.
TikTok is also pushing the trend of independent artists thanks to their algorithm, they can shoot to fame overnight. There is no better case study than the one of GAYLE, she created a large TikTok following and after the request of one of her fans, she made a song using the alphabet. The result is now the song “abcdefu” is number one on Billboard Global 200 and 11 on The Hot 100 list, it has been streamed more than 273 million times on Spotify and has launched GAYLE into an upcoming talent with a wide reach all over the globe, helping her sign a major label contract virtually overnight (let’s be honest no matter your opinion on the song, I am pretty sure you have felt the lyrics about someone).
Moreover, NFTs are becoming an extremely powerful tool for artists, as they can turn their future into a commodity that can gain value with time, further engage their fanbase, offer unique experiences to them and make them also financially invested in the artist. From selling NFTs of video snippets to song rights, this technology could really help the financial situation of independent artists while strengthening the bond between fan and artist.
Hence, with more individuals expressing themselves through music, creating more songs, having the necessary tools and an ecosystem that is widely available to all, being an independent artist with a suite of powerful instruments has never been more accessible. However, there are many things to consider about the sustainability of this trend as many of these artists cannot make a living out of their music and NFTs may eventually tire the core fanbase as they will feel monetized.