Happy Valentine's Day! Today is all about showing your loved ones how much you care, and for independent artists, it's also about reflecting on why they love making music their way.
We asked 42 AWAL artists about their favorite reasons for staying independent, calling all the shots with their music, and finding success. Check out their answers below!
1. "The scary thing about labels is that the people working there change, but the contracts don’t. You can sign with a great, enthusiastic team only to have them leave, and then you become the unwanted, inherited project that the new people working there feel absolutely no connection to because they didn’t sign you.
"When you’re independent, you are your own A&R person and your own marketing team, and no one is ever going to put more love and sweat into you than you will. That’s why we love our independence. Plus, there’s no clock ticking. You can release whenever you want and feel like you’re advancing.
"We’ve learned as we went, tried this, tried that, and now when we look back at our accomplishments they feel extremely rewarding because we realize we did them on our own." — Freedom Fry
2. "Being an independent artist is so powerful! I have complete creative control over my craft, and I can release my work whenever I feel is best. AWAL provides me the tools I need to get to the next step to grow into the artist I’m destined to be, all while I still own 100% of everything I do." — Z
3. "I’ve always loved both the control I keep and the challenges that come with being DIY. I’m passionate about breaking the mold and always try to work unconventionally... because I have that freedom to do so. I believe being independent truly builds character and helps you grow in both a business sense and as an artist.
"I think we’ll continue to see more and more of us independents breaking through and making dents in the industry because of our determination and the creative freedom that we have." — Emma McGann
4. "Being independent feels brand new for us: We haven’t been independent since we recorded our first album and the music world has changed so much since then. It gives us the freedom to choose where our music is heard and how we spread our message — opportunities that were sometimes closed off by major-record-label red tape. Plus, we see the bulk of income and the fruits of our labor go straight back into our own band." — Katie Jayne Earl of The Mowgli's
5. "Being independent allows us to have a vision and not have to sell someone on that vision to make it happen." — Fly By Midnight
6. "It's been such an amazing ride over the last 18 months when I became a fully independent artist. Working with AWAL and Kobalt has really allowed me to be completely creative and set my own pace in releasing music to the world.
"We’ve also had amazing success with over 200 million streams on Spotify alone in that time, and it’s still growing every day. It’s a great new world out there with the emerging music services and technologies, and AWAL is uniquely positioned to guide the independent artist through it all." — R3HAB
7. "Being independent gives us creative freedom in every aspect of our career — from the music itself, to visual elements like videos and artwork we can have full control over the direction and outcome with no external influence." — Arctic Lake
8. "Independent artists have never had a better chance at successfully releasing and financially profiting from their music. Because Sam and I are the team, we never have to worry about shelving ourselves or compromising our individual artistic standards.
"Being independent also holds every person involved accountable to do their job. We all wear many hats and struggle at times with not having the leverage we may have otherwise had with a major, but we have the songs, talent, and determination from the entire Independent team we’ve built around us to see this project through.
"It’s a slow climb, but we’ve built a foundation for sustainability and that’s something to be very proud of. I look at being independent like I’m finally taking the training wheels off my bike." — Brown & Gray
9. "I love being an independent artist, as it means I’m able to stay true to myself at all times, expressing whatever musical form that might take. I love the freedom to be able to experiment and develop my craft without any limits and with full creative control." — Sam Wills
10. "Today, it is extremely empowering and inspiring to be an independent artist with tools like social media and AWAL because we can own our masters, cut out the middle man, and still make a global impact." — Spencer Ludwig
11. "I love being an independent artist because of the pressure. If I'm not getting stuff done, there isn't a huge team behind the scenes making it happen. This makes every little victory so much sweeter. I feel sorry for people who just have to turn up or get told somethings happened for them, and they don't ever realize the magic of taking it from idea to success." — OMYO
12. "The control and easy communication between us and AWAL makes for a stress free and easier release schedule which is key for an independent artist." — Youth Club
13. "As an independent artist, I get to decide which things matter. It gives me a sense of what my music can accomplish, and has allowed me to define my own ideas and values while my career is kicking off. I love making up my own mind and trusting my gut, and being independent has allowed me to believe in myself." — Angie McMahon
14. "Complete freedom. I do everything myself which is obviously more difficult but it means it’s all coming from me. Whether it’s good or bad it’s honestly who I am. And I’m so happy to have faced myself like this. It’s changed everything for the better." — ELIZA
15. "Being able to control your destiny in the industry is so crucial. The power of social media, a strong team like AWAL, and remaining consistent are just some of the things that help me propel my career.
"Making music is such a beautiful and innocent thing; it tends to be forgotten when pursuing a career. I like the idea of being my own boss, it helps me reach the heights I’ve always dreamed of reaching." — Dan Miz
16. "Being an independent artist allows me to move quickly and release songs whenever I want to, really, which is amazing 'cause I think it brings me closer to my fans. I get to release songs around the same time I write them." — Kim Petras
17. "It gives me the freedom to make the songs I want to make and have a team of people that share my vision." — FRND
18. "I like being an independent artist because I get to be my own boss. I oversee all the operations of my label and its releases. Being a bit of a control freak about how my art is represented, I find comfort in taking responsibility for the failures and successes of every endeavor." — Cut Chemist
19. "I love being independent, because I make my music for myself and for my fans. That’s what it is all about. Discovering different parts of yourself and inspiring others. In the end, I want my music to be as authentic as possible without anyone telling me which direction to go." — BOHNES
20. "I love being an independent artist because everything is in my control: my timeline, my music, relationship with fans, etc. There’s no one telling me how I need to do my job. I own all of my music and I can essentially make all of my own decisions for what I do and do not want to do." — BAUM
21. "Being an independent artist has provided me the incredible opportunity to share my story, music, and visuals in the most direct way possible. I’ve worked so hard to keep my music and art honest, and being able to share my culture from the source is something I truly love and am grateful for." — Michael Brun
22. "For creativity to flow, you need 100% freedom to play and explore your artistic ideas. Being an independent artist allows me that freedom." — Ainslie Wills
23. "I love being an independent artist, because it has allowed for such creative freedom throughout the early stages of my career. Staying independent has provided me with the opportunity to grow, focus on developing my craft as a songwriter, and has given me time to find my sound as an artist, and settle into the music industry comfortably, with a lack of pressure and time restraints." — Gretta Ray
24. "We embrace being independent artists, because we’ve been able to obtain full creative control of our sound and image. We are truly grateful for this opportunity." — Aly & AJ
25. "I like being an independent artist because I have so many ideas, so I love having creative control over everything. It’s an exciting world because you don’t know what’s around the corner. It feels like anything is possible." — Camden Cox
26. "I love that I have the freedom to express myself freely through my music - being an independent artist, it makes my career more a lot more enjoyable." — Gabriella Vixen
27. "I think the most valuable thing to me about being an indie artist is just not having anybody in my way. There’s nothing more frustrating than someone telling me, “No you can’t put that out,” or, “No you can’t make that video.”
"I am an artist with a vision, I eat sleep and breathe my work, and to most label people, this is only a job. Would I like a label partner one day? Maybe. I love to collaborate! It’s just the red tape and politics that slow down the process of getting from the artist's brain to the public’s ears and eyes that I don’t have the patience for.
"At the end of the day, nobody cares more about my career than I do, so why not run the show myself?" — Bonnie McKee
28. "Being independent so far has allowed things to grow organically. I compare it to gardening. You have to be patient. It's a slow process doing all the work without a label. You have to really dig into and understand the digital landscape, but it's full of surprise blossoming and unexpected fruits. And this I love." — Laura Misch
29. "As Elder Island, we have always valued our independence and ability to make our own decisions concerning our music and general output. Taking the step to self release has meant we have complete creative control over our sound and imagery. Wouldn’t have it any other way." — Elder Island
30. "There’s this uncanny aura in the air where you can focus on your music and challenge yourself without having to feel the pressure of, or even think about, your art’s marketability or value. In my experience, the most genuine ideas tend to be the most appreciated, and independence has helped re-open the gate to some of our purest thoughts." — Smallpools
31. "I love being an independent artist for the simple reason of freedom: freedom to release your music when you want to, having creative control, owning your masters — not one signed artist to a major record label can say that! I personally choose, alongside my team, how, when, where and what we do with my music.
"Most major-label artists are a slave to the label, they are being told what to do. Yes, they have huge marketing budgets and relationships to get their music played on radio, but is that because of the the artist and their music or because a hot-shot major label with loads of money says so?
"In fact, the soundtrack for Tropical Cruises to Jamaica, which included three of my tracks release independently, recently hit #1 on Billboard's Reggae chart.
"All independent artists should be very proud. It's a struggle, but it's our music, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!" — Alonestar
32. "The reason I like being independent is because I can release/re-release music whenever I want, and I have complete control over all decisions regarding my releases. I like being involved in the whole process, and because of this, it makes me more proud of my music, as I know I have played a part in every step." — Louise Golbey
33. "As an independent artist... we have the freedom to create the music we love, while keeping creative control over the band’s sound and image. It feels like AWAL have taken away the barriers between us and our audience." — Who's Molly
34. "I love being an independent artist. When you achieve a goal, it truly feels like you’ve earned it, which makes it that much better. I was recently scouted out by a large TV talent contest but decided to turn down the opportunity so I could continue releasing my original music independently, and it was the best decision I ever made. Follow your heart, and be the best you can be, and that will take you a long way." — Sam Brockington
35. "I love being an independent artist because it gives me the freedom to be in control of my career and learn and progress at my own pace. With the support of AWAL/Kobalt I get to have a team around me who works so hard and is passionate about what I’m doing and helps me develop as an artist worldwide while still working in a close-knit and supportive group." — Alex the Astronaut
36. "As an independent artist, I love being wholly responsible for everything going on in my career, both creatively and from the business side. It feels so rewarding to take ownership of the successes and the failures and really feel in control of my own destiny." — Ariana and the Rose
37. "We love being independent artists because we don’t have to go through 10 layers of bullshit to get things done." — Fever High
38. "I love being an independent artist because I have the freedom to control my musical direction, business decisions and ultimately, my destiny." — ZUBY
39. "Being newly independent has given me the freedom to now put out music consistently — when I want to and how I want to. I strive to be a career artist, not a flash in the pan.
"When you’re on a major label (which I was on for three years), you’re at the mercy of a big corporations making decisions, which most of the time, have nothing to do with you. You become just another statistic at the end of the day.
"Now, I’m my own boss and I can pick and choose who I surround myself with and who I bring onto my team. I’ve always thought outside the box with my art, and I plan to continue operating with that mentality with no fear." — Liz Y2K
40. "Four years ago, I couldn't make an album, because one, I was dependent on having a record deal, and two, it was dependent on me getting on the radio. It was all about whether or not this radio station would play your song. And if you didn't get it, you were fucked, whereas now, you can make whatever music you want, and it will fit into it's place in the streaming universe. And that's a much healthier way of doing it." — Bruno Major
41. "I love being an independent artist. AWAL has given me the space to develop as well as a confidence boost. With your support and help with pitching to streaming services, unexpected things have happened including someone covering my song in Hungary!" — Harry Pane
42. “Being an independent artist, I have the opportunity to do something I love and be entrepreneurial with it at the same time.
"I think it’s been an important experience to be responsible for the artwork, and the release strategy, the merchandise, website etc, at least in the beginning. The more you understand about each element of your campaign and brand, the better service and product you can supply to your fans.
"Yes, you are an independent artist, but that doesn’t mean you are alone. You can build a team first with management and then radio, PR, live agents, lawyers, and promoters, and work with people you know and trust.” — Matt Woods
Why do you love being an independent artist? Tweet us with the hashtag #AWALove!