Independent record label

Last updated

An independent record label (or indie label) is a record label that operates without the funding of major record labels. Many artists begin their careers on independent labels. [1]

A record label, or record company, is a brand or trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. Sometimes, a record label is also a publishing company that manages such brands and trademarks, coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion, and enforcement of copyright for sound recordings and music videos, while also conducting talent scouting and development of new artists, and maintaining contracts with recording artists and their managers. The term "record label" derives from the circular label in the center of a vinyl record which prominently displays the manufacturer's name, along with other information. Within the mainstream music industry, recording artists have traditionally been reliant upon record labels to broaden their consumer base, market their albums, and be both promoted and heard on music streaming services, radio, and television. Record labels also provide publicists, who assist performers in gaining positive media coverage, and arrange for their merchandise to be available via stores and other media outlets.

Contents

Overview

Independent record labels are small companies that produce and distribute records. [2] They are not affiliated with or funded by the three major records labels. According to SoundScan and the Recording Industry Association of America, indie labels produce and distribute about 66% of music titles, but only account for 20% of sales.

A company, abbreviated as co., is a legal entity made up of an association of people, be they natural, legal, or a mixture of both, for carrying on a commercial or industrial enterprise. Company members share a common purpose, and unite to focus their various talents and organize their collectively available skills or resources to achieve specific, declared goals. Companies take various forms, such as:

Album collection of recorded music, words, sounds

An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on compact disc (CD), vinyl, audio tape, or another medium. Albums of recorded music were developed in the early 20th century as individual 78-rpm records collected in a bound book resembling a photograph album; this format evolved after 1948 into single vinyl LP records played at ​33 13 rpm. Vinyl LPs are still issued, though album sales in the 21st-century have mostly focused on CD and MP3 formats. The audio cassette was a format used alongside vinyl from the 1970s into the first decade of the 2000s.

Nielsen SoundScan is an information and sales tracking system created by Mike Fine and Mike Shalett in 1991. SoundScan is a method of tracking sales of music and music video products throughout the United States and Canada. Data is collected weekly and made available every Sunday and every Monday to subscribers, which include record companies, publishing firms, music retailers, independent promoters, film and TV companies, and artist managers. The Nielsen SoundScan is the sales source for the Billboard music charts, making it the largest source of sales records in the music industry.

The distinction between major and independent labels is not always clear. The traditional definition of a major label is a label that owns its distribution channel. Some independent labels, particularly those with successful artists, sign dual-release agreements with major labels. They may also rely on international licensing deals, distribution agreements, and other arrangements with major labels. Major labels sometimes fully or partially acquire independent labels.

Distribution is one of the four elements of the marketing mix. Distribution is the process of making a product or service available for the consumer or business user who needs it. This can be done directly by the producer or service provider, or using indirect channels with distributors or intermediaries. The other three elements of the marketing mix are product, pricing, and promotion.

Other nominally independent labels are started and sometimes run by artists on major labels, but are still fully or partially owned by the major label. These labels are frequently referred to as vanity labels or boutique labels, and are intended to appease established artists or allow them to discover and promote newer artists.

A vanity label is an informal name given sometimes to a record label founded as a wholly or partially owned subsidiary of another, larger and better established record label, where the subsidiary label is controlled by a successful recording artist, designed to allow this artist to release music by other artists they admire. The parent label handles the production and distribution and funding of the vanity label, but the album is usually released with the vanity label brand name prominent. Usually, the artist/head of the vanity label is signed to the parent label, and this artist's own recordings will be released under the vanity label's brand name. Creating a vanity label can be an attractive idea for the parent label primarily as a "perk" to keep a successful artist on the label's roster happy and a venue to bring fellow artists to the public's attention.

According to the Association of Independent Music, "A 'major' is defined in AIM's constitution as a multinational company which (together with the companies in its group) has more than 5% of the world market(s) for the sale of records or music videos. The majors are (currently) Sony, Warner and the Universal Music Group (which as of 2012 incorporates EMI)... If a major owns 50% or more of the total shares in your company, you would (usually) be owned or controlled by that major."

Association of Independent Music

The Association of Independent Music is a non-profit trade body established in 1998 by UK independent record labels to represent the independent record sector, which constitutes approximately 30% of the UK market.

Warner Music Group American global music conglomerate

Warner Music Group Inc. (WMG), also known as Warner Music, is an American multinational entertainment and record label conglomerate headquartered in New York City. It is one of the "big three" recording companies and the third largest in the global music industry, after Universal Music Group (UMG) and Sony Music Entertainment (SME). Formerly part of Time Warner, the company was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange until May 2011, when it announced its privatization and sale to Access Industries, which was completed in July 2011. With a multibillion-dollar annual turnover, WMG employs more than 3,500 people and has operations in more than 50 countries throughout the world.

Universal Music Group American music corporation

Universal Music Group is an American global music corporation that is a subsidiary of the French media conglomerate Vivendi. UMG's global corporate headquarters are located in Santa Monica, California. It is considered one of the "Big Three" record labels, along with Sony Music and Warner Music Group. Since 2004, the corporation is no longer related to the film studio Universal Studios.

History

Independent labels have historically anticipated developments in popular music, beginning with the post-war period in the United States. [3] Disputes with major labels led to a proliferation of smaller labels specializing in country, jazz, and blues. Sun Records played an important part in the development of rock 'n' roll and country music, working with artists such as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Charlie Rich. [3] These independent labels usually aimed their releases at a small but loyal audience. They relied less on mass sales and were able to provide artists much more opportunity for experimentation and artistic freedom.

Pop music is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form in the United States and United Kingdom during the mid-1950s. The terms "popular music" and "pop music" are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all music that is popular and includes many diverse styles. "Pop" and "rock" were roughly synonymous terms until the late 1960s, when they became increasingly differentiated from each other.

Post-war interval immediately following the end of a war

In Western usage, the phrase post-war era or postwar era usually refer to the time since the end of World War II, even though many nations involved in this war have been involved in other wars since.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

In the United Kingdom during the 1950s and 1960s, the major labels EMI, Philips, and Decca had so much power that smaller labels struggled to establish themselves. Several British producers launched independent labels, including Joe Meek (Triumph Records), Andrew Oldham (Immediate Records), and Larry Page (Page One Records). [3] Chrysalis Records, launched by Chris Wright and Terry Ellis, was perhaps the most successful independent label from that era. Several established artists started their own independent labels, including The Beatles' Apple Records, The Rolling Stones' Rolling Stones Records, and Elton John' The Rocket Record Company. These labels tended to fail commercially or be acquired by the major labels. [3] [4]

In the late 1940s and into the 1950s, the American music business changed as people began to more quickly learn the industry. Several companies set up their own recording studios, and the number of label owners began to increase. Many of these owners realized that whichever label first publishes a song is legally entitled to receive compensation for every record sold. Following the original pioneers of the music industry, many new labels were launched over the following decades by people with industry experience. During the 1980s and 1990s, many rap labels were started by artists looking for new talent. Madonna is one example of an established artist who helped launch the career of newer artists with her Maverick label.

A&M Records is widely believed to have been the most successful independent label in history due to its 37-year run and catalog of commercially successful and critically acclaimed records. Founded in 1962 by trumpeter Herb Alpert (A) and record promoter Jerry Moss (M), A&M was initially the label and distributor for Alpert's own Tijuana Brass recordings, but the label quickly began signing other artists. Over its 37-year run, A&M sold records from such artists as Sergio Mendes & Brazil '66, Claudine Longet, The Carpenters, Phil Ochs, Carole King (A&M distributed her label, Ode Records), Joe Cocker, Free, Cat Stevens, Procol Harum, Humble Pie, Peter Frampton, The Police and Sting (as a solo artist), Styx, Bryan Adams, Amy Grant, Suzanne Vega and Sheryl Crow. A&M was also the initial distributor of Windham Hill Records and George Harrison's Dark Horse Records. Alpert and Moss sold A&M Records to Polygram in 1989 with the caveat that Alpert and Moss would continue to manage the label. [5] Polygram was bought by Universal Music Group in 1998, and A&M folded the following year.

The punk rock movement was another turning point for independent labels, the movement's do-it-yourself ethos creating an even greater proliferation of independent labels. [3] In the United States, independent labels such as Beserkley found success with artists such as The Modern Lovers. Many of the United Kingdom labels ended up signing distribution deals with major labels to remain viable, but others retained their independence, such as Industrial Records, Factory Records, Warp, Ninja Tune, Wax On, and BlancoMusic. Another factor that came to define independent labels was the method of distribution, which had to be independent of the major labels for records to be included in the UK Indie Chart. The UK Indie Chart was first compiled in 1980. [6] The chart was unrelated to a specific genre, and the chart featured a diverse range of music, from punk to reggae, MOR, and mainstream pop, including songs by artists like Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan on the PWL label.

The late 1970s had seen the establishment of independent distribution companies such as Pinnacle and Spartan, providing independent labels an effective means of distribution without involving the major labels. Distribution was further improved with the establishment of 'The Cartel', an association of companies such as Rough Trade Records, Backs Records, and Red Rhino, which helped to take releases from small labels and get them into record shops nationwide. [6] The UK Indie Chart became a major source of exposure for artists on independent labels, with the top ten singles regularly aired on the national television show The Chart Show . By the late 1980s, the major labels had identified an opportunity to establish new artists using the indie chart, and began setting up subsidiary labels that were financed by the major labels but distributed independently. This allowed the major labels to effectively push the indie labels out of the market, and the independent chart became less significant in the early 1990s. The term "alternative" was increasingly used to describe artists, and "indie'" was more often used to describe a broad range of guitar-based rock and pop.

The Offspring's 1994 album, Smash , is the best-selling independent record of all time. The album was certified six times platinum in the United States and sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. [7] Norman Schreiber wrote a 1986 book called The Scouting Party Index of Independent Record Labels that covers a list of over 200 independent record labels, their artists, and examples of their work. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Australian Recording Industry Association

The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) is a trade group representing the Australian recording industry which was established in 1983 by six major record companies, EMI, Festival, CBS, RCA, WEA and Universal replacing the Association of Australian Record Manufacturers (AARM) which was formed in 1956. It oversees the collection, administration and distribution of music licenses and royalties.

PolyGram, founded in 1962, acquired by Universal Music Group in 1998 and merged into that group in 1999, was a Dutch entertainment company, which started as a major record label founded by Dutch Philips and German Siemens as a holding company for their music interests in 1972. The name was chosen to reflect the Siemens interest Polydor Records and the Philips interest Phonogram Records. The company traced its origins through Deutsche Grammophon back to the inventor of the flat disk gramophone, Emil Berliner.

Herb Alpert American musician

HerbAlpert is an American jazz musician most associated with the group variously known as Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass, or TJB. Alpert is also a recording industry executive, the "A" of A&M Records, a recording label he and business partner Jerry Moss founded and eventually sold to PolyGram. Alpert also has created abstract expressionist paintings and sculpture over two decades, which are publicly displayed on occasion. Alpert and his wife, Lani Hall, are substantial philanthropists through the operation of the Herb Alpert Foundation.

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment British-American film studio, film production company

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment was a British-American film studio founded in 1980 which became a European competitor to Hollywood, but was eventually sold to Seagram Company Ltd. in 1998 and was folded in 1999. Among its most successful and well known films were An American Werewolf in London (1981), Flashdance (1983), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Dead Man Walking (1995), The Big Lebowski (1998), Fargo (1996), The Usual Suspects (1995), and Notting Hill (1999).

RSO Records record label

RSO Records was a record label formed by rock and roll and musical theatre impresario Robert Stigwood and record executive Al Coury in 1973. The "RSO" stands for the Robert Stigwood Organization. The company's main headquarters were at 67 Brook Street, in London's Mayfair. It underwent four distribution stages: by Atlantic Records from March 1973 to December 1975, by Polydor Records from January 1976 to December 1977, as an independent label under the PolyGram Group umbrella from January 1978 to around October 1981, and finally by PolyGram Records from around November 1981 until the label's end in 1983.

Enigma Records rock and alternative American record label in the 1980s

Enigma Records was a popular rock and alternative American record label in the 1980s.

Republic Records record label, division of Universal Music Group

Republic Records is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group (UMG). It was founded by Avery Lipman and Monte Lipman as an independent label in 1995, and was acquired by UMG in 2000. Republic was initially an imprint of the Universal/Motown Records Group, and was renamed Universal Republic Records after a reorganization in 2006 before reverting to its original name in 2012.

Independent music is music produced independently from commercial record labels or their subsidiaries, a process that may include an autonomous, do-it-yourself approach to recording and publishing. The term indie is sometimes used to describe a genre, and as a genre term, "indie" may include music that is not independently produced, and many independent music artists do not fall into a single, defined musical style or genre and create self-published music that can be categorized into diverse genres. The term ‘indie’ or ‘independent music’ can be traced back to as early as the 1920’s after it was first used to reference independent film companies but was later used as a term to classify an independent band or record producer.

A recording contract is a legal agreement between a record label and a recording artist, where the artist makes a record for the label to sell and promote. Artists under contract are normally only allowed to record for that label exclusively; guest appearances on other artists' records will carry a notice "By courtesy of ", and that label may receive a percentage of sales.

Festival Records Australian record label; imprint of Festival Records Pty. Ltd.

Festival Records was an Australian recording and publishing company founded in Sydney in 1952 and operated until 2005.

An unsigned artist, unsigned band or independent artist is a musician or musical group not under a contract with a record label. The terms are used in the music industry as a marketing technique. Bands that release their own material on self-published CDs can also be considered unsigned bands. Often unsigned bands primarily exist to perform at concerts.

The Rajon Music Group was formed in July 2000 by John Evans after the merger of 3 leading independent record labels. Consequently, the group became one of the largest independent record labels in Australia.

For the successor to this company, go to Universal Music Latin Entertainment.

The UK Independent Singles Chart and UK Independent Albums Chart are charts of the best-selling independent singles and albums, respectively, in the United Kingdom. Originally published in January 1980, and widely known as the "indie chart", the relevance of the chart dwindled in the 1990s as major-label ownership blurred the boundary between independent and major labels.

A&M Records American historical record label

A&M Records was an American record label founded as an independent company by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss in 1962. Due to the success of the discography A&M released, the label garnered interest and was acquired by PolyGram in 1989 and began distributing releases from Polydor Ltd. from the UK. Throughout its operations, A&M housed well-known acts such as Joe Cocker, Procol Harum, Captain & Tennille, Sting, Sergio Mendes, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Supertramp, Bryan Adams, Burt Bacharach, Liza Minnelli, The Carpenters, Paul Williams, Janet Jackson, Cat Stevens, Peter Frampton, Elkie Brooks, Carole King, Styx, Extreme, Amy Grant, Joan Baez, the Human League, The Police, CeCe Peniston, Blues Traveler, Soundgarden, Duffy and Sheryl Crow.


The AIR Charts are the official sales charts for Australian independent music released by Australian owned, independent record labels. Presented by AIR, the Australian Independent Record Labels Association, the charts are calculated according to official sales figures provided by the ARIA Charts, which includes legal MP3 download sales.

The UK Independent Singles Breakers Chart and the UK Independent Album Breakers Chart are music charts based on UK sales of singles and albums released on independent record labels by musical artists who have never made the UK top 20. It is compiled weekly by the Official Charts Company (OCC), and is first published on their official website on Friday evenings. The chart was first launched on 29 June 2009, and, according to Martin Talbot, managing director of the OCC, would have benefited acts such as Friendly Fires and Grizzly Bear.

Symphonic Distribution

Symphonic Distribution also known as "Symphonic" is a digital music distribution company launched in late 2006 by Jorge Brea, a former music producer from Tampa, Florida. Symphonic Distribution delivers music from independent record labels and musicians to online retailers such as Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Napster, Deezer, Pandora, Amazon, Beatport and more.

An art release is the premiere of an artistic production and its presentation and marketing to the public.

References

  1. "Indie record labels". Musicians.about.com. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  2. Pavlik, John V. Converging Media: A new Introduction to Mass Communication. ISBN   9780190271510.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Rogan, Johnny (1992). "Introduction" in The Guinness Who's Who of Indie and New Wave Music. Guinness Publishing.
  4. Gillett, Charlies. "Independent record labels and producers". Brittanica.com. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  5. Solomons, Mark (1998) "'UniGram': The Euro Outlook: A&M U.K. Restructured", Billboard – The International Newsweekly of Music, Video, and Home Entertainment.
  6. 1 2 Lazell, Barry (1997). "Indie Hits 1980–1989", Cherry Red Books. ISBN   0-9517206-9-4
  7. "The Offspring - Smash (album review 3)". SputnikMusic. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  8. “Nonprint”. “Nonprint”. American Libraries 17.6 (1986): 495–496. Web.