The Rise of Independently Produced Music
Due to increasingly popular sites such as Bandcamp and Noisetrade musicians are able to independently produce and distribute their music without the need of a record label. The rise of digital music sales has affected both record stores and record labels since it’s become easier to download an mp3 than it is to buy a physical CD that usually costs more. The role record labels have played in the past has quickly become unnecessary with the growing digital age. Bands like OK Go and Childish Gambino are separating themselves from labels in order to regain creative control and freely share their music in the way they sit fit; unencumbered by record label distribution contracts.
The major role record labels have in a musician’s career is manufacturing and distribution means. This was the reason why musicians sought out to be signed by a label, to get their music to the public. However, in the last ten years with the rise of digital music stores like iTunes, and publishing platforms such as Bandcamp, the need for a record label is becoming irrelevant. As of August 2009, iTunes accounted for 25% of the music sold in America, and that has only risen since. (Frucci). Profits from physical music sales that labels gained money from is quickly declining.
Bands are also realizing the benefits of signing with indie labels. Indie labels are privately owned and in some cases have their own fan bases. “ Indies are presumably owned by passionate music fans rather than gigantic multinational holding companies, which is important when a band needs to know that a label is 100% behind them,” (Frucci). Bands nowadays are looking for an intimate relationship between their label and fans where they can share freely any new material, or videos without the restrictions of a major label contract. In 2010 when Ok Go announced they were separating from EMI and creating their own label, it was because EMI refused to make their newest music video embeddable online. For bands like OK Go, the restrictive aspects of being signed by a label are not ideal.
Between being able to distribute music freely on the Internet or working with a smaller label, these benefits are quickly becoming much more desirable than a contract with a major label was ten years ago. This shift from physical sales to digital sales in music, and the increasingly popular methods of independently producing and distributing music on the Internet is a phenomenon that has really taken over the music industry within the last decade. To trace how and when these changes took place and why musicians seek these changes is a topic that would be very interesting to study.