Study from MIDIA Research and digital distribution service Amuse finds that independent artists generated $643 million in 2018, up 35% from the previous year.
Artists without record labels generated $643.1 million in 2018, up 35% from the prior year, according to a new research survey conducted by the music distribution service and alternative record label Amuse alongside MIDIA Research. That represents a 3.3% share of recorded music revenues, up from 2.8% in 2017.
The findings, based on a survey conducted of more than 250 artists around the world, suggest that with alternatives to label deals expanding, independent artists are increasingly discovering new ways to generate income. As a result, labels are seen as less vital than ever to sustaining a career in music.
“There are a lot of these tools in the market that allow people to reach a certain level of monetary success on their own,” Amuse co-founder and CEO Diego Farias told Billboard. “And it sort of leads a lot of people in the creative industries, and especially among young artists, to believe that they can do this entirely on their own. I think that’s what’s being reflected here.”
Indeed, less than a third of independent artists who responded to the survey consider it important to be signed to a record label, while a little more than half of artists already signed to a label feel it’s important. The study’s suggestion of a shifting perception has coincided with a rise in alternatives to the traditional label system, including artist funding solutions such as 23 Capital — which allows artists to borrow against prior income — as well as The Music Fund, Royalty Exchange and Amuse’s newly-launched Fast Forward service, all of which offer artists up-front sums in exchange for a percentage of future royalties.
Still, the income generated by both independent and label artists remains low for the majority. Of independent artists who responded to the survey, nearly three-quarters said they make less than $10,000 a year from music, while 61% of label artists said the same. In addition, over two-thirds of all artists reported having to work other jobs outside of music in order to make ends meet.
While struggling musicians will always exist — particularly with increasing competition in the DIY streaming age — Farias believes it’s possible for more of them to earn a sustainable living, both by increasing access to DIY technologies as well as signing them to less-exploitative deals.
“One of the issues has been that out of the dollars generated in terms of revenues, a lot of people have been biting into that, taking pieces of that,” he said. “At the end of the day, the amount of money that the artists have kept [has] been a fairly low amount.”
“We know that [the traditional labels are] already looking at changing up their models for how they work,” he said. “We see a lot of new types of contracts coming through from the majors every week and every month, so there’s definitely a lot of innovation happening there. But the innovation cycles are slower, of course.”
MIDiA conducted the survey independently through its channels, those artists surveyed were not specifically Amuse artists.