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Independent Artists Are Now a Billion-Dollar Market


Tables are turning — quickly — in the music industry. Whereas before it was difficult to “break” as an artist without major-label support, independent artists are now effectively building sustainable music careers on their own, maintaining and pursuing their own unique vision for their journeys.

Even Kobalt CEO and Founder and our own Executive Chairman, Willard Ahdritz has declared that there’s no better time to be an independent artist in the music industry. “The future,” he said last month at BBC Music Introducing hosts Amplify in London, “will only lead to more empowerment for artists along with more sustainable ways to build their careers.”

And now, according to the second-annual “WINTEL” report, the numbers are reflecting this major shift. The music industry has been on a massive upswing bolstered by streaming, certainly, but also the indie market; report statistics show that as the industry grew 78% overall in 2016, streaming revenues from the indie sector alone ballooned over 80%. If that’s not enough, indies are accounting for almost half of global streaming revenues.

This is truly an unprecedented time for independent artists, but one that holds a lot of promise and confidence that you can still maintain your rights, control your career, and make it onto the charts, that popular playlist, or perform at that major festival.


{Editor’s Note: Below is a version of a post originally showcased on MusicAlly, a premier provider of digital music journalism and consultancy. For the full article, please click here.}

Independent-music trade body WIN has published its second annual ‘WINTEL’ report on the global music market. Its headline claim is that indie labels and independent artists increased their market share of global recorded-music sales from 37.5% in 2015 to 38.4% in 2016, as their collective revenues increased by 6.9% to more than $6bn in the latter year.

Within that, streaming revenues for indie labels and independent artists grew by 80.4% to $2.1bn in 2016, compared to the 78% growth in the overall music market. Indies now account for 40% of global streaming revenues, according to WIN: slightly more than their share of the overall market, although not the huge over-indexing that has sometimes been suggested at independent conferences.

As with last year’s report, a key focus for ‘WINTEL’ is focusing on rights ownership rather than distribution: revenue for artists signed to independent labels but distributed through a major-owned distributor are counted here as part of the ‘indie’ share rather than those majors. In fact, WIN claims that as much as $1.2bn of revenue is in play here: a figure you can expect to hear more of in 2018, as arguments over market-share stats (and distributor consolidation under the majors) continues.

“It is important when making sense of the global market for independent music that we continue to use ownership rather than distribution as the method of calculation,” said WIN boss Alison Wenham.

“It speaks volumes for the tenacity, passion and entrepreneurship of independent labels, and the public’s desire for musical diversity, that even in these times of global dominance by major corporations, almost 4 out of every 10 dollars spent on music goes to the independent sector,” added Beggars Group founder (and WIN VP) Martin Mills.


As Wenham stated, this immense surge in the indie sector comes down to artists’ own passion, hard work, and perseverance. But even though being independent means doing a lot of legwork yourself, it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.


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