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An independent record label (or indie label) is a record label that operates without the funding of major record labels; they are a type of small to medium-sized enterprise, or SME. The labels and artists are often represented by trade associations in their country or region, which in turn are represented by the international trade body, the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN).
Many of the labels started as producers and distributors of specific genres of music, such as jazz music, or represent something new and non-mainstream, such as Elvis Presley in the early days. Today, music appearing on indie labels is often referred to as indie music, or more specifically by genre, such as indie hip-hop.
Independent record labels are small companies that produce and distribute records. [ citation needed ]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.
Many artists begin their careers on independent labels.
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, or distribution only agreements with major labels. They may also rely on international licensing deals and other arrangements with major labels. Major labels sometimes fully or partially acquire independent labels.
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.
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 a company, that company would (usually) be owned or controlled by that major."
Independent labels have historically anticipated developments in popular music, beginning with the post-war period in the United States. [ citation needed ]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. 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.
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.[ citation needed ]
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).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, and The Rolling Stones' Rolling Stones Records. These labels tended to fail commercially or be acquired by the major labels.
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.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. [ citation needed ]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. [ citation needed ]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 Scouting Party Index of Independent Record Labels (1986) by Norman Schreiber includes a list of over 200 independent record labels, their artists, and examples of their work.
The Offspring's 1994 album, Smash , was as of April 2007 [update] 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.
The international peak body for the indie music industry, Worldwide Independent Network, was founded in 2006.WIN is a coalition of independent music bodies from countries throughout the world.
Alison Wenhamspent 17 years leading the UK's Association of Independent Music (AIM), which she launched in 1999. During this time she also helped to found WIN in 2006, remaining at WIN for twelve years, with the last two spent as CEO. As a driving force in helping indie labels being able to compete worldwide with bigger companies, Wenham featured in Billboard ’s "Top Women in Music" every year since publication. She stepped down from her role at WIN in December 2018, the following year taking on a non-executive director's role at Funnel Music.
On 4 July 2008, WIN ran "Independents Day", the first annual coordinated celebration of independent music across the world, for which the Australian Independent Record Labels Association created a list of the greatest independent records of all time.
After Wenham's departure, WIN's former Director of Legal and Business Affairs, Charlie Phillips, was promoted to the leadership role, named as Chief Operating Officer. He would report directly to the recently elected Chair, Justin West, of Canadian company Secret City Records.
As of August 2019 [update] other member organisations of WIN included A2IM (USA), ABMI (Brazil), ADISQ (Canada - Quebec only), AIM (UK), AMAEI (Portugal), A.S.I.A.r (Argentina), Audiocoop (Italy), BIMA (Belgium), CIMA (Canada), DUP (Denmark), FONO (Norway), HAIL (Hungary), IMCJ (Japan), IMICHILE (Chile) IMNZ (New Zealand), IMPALA (Europe), indieCo (Finland), IndieSuisse (Switzerland), Liak (Korea), P.I.L. (Israel), PMI (Italy), Runda (Balkans), SOM (Sweden), stomp (Netherlands), UFI (Spain), UPFI (France), VTMOE (Austria) and VUT (Germany).
Particularly active are the trade associations in countries and regions with well-established music markets: AIM (UK), A2IM (USA), AIR (Australia), CIMA (Canada), VUT (Germany), IMNZ (New Zealand), UFI (Spain); IMICHILE (Chile), ABMI (Brazil), and IMPALA (Europe).
In 2016, WIN's WINTEL report, an analysis of the global economic and cultural impact of the indie sector, showed the share of the global market as 37.6%. The sector generated worldwide revenues of US$5.6 billion in 2015.
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In Australia, the peak body for the independent music industry is the Australian Independent Record Labels Association, known as AIR, representing about 350 members as of 2019 [update] .
A 2017 report commissioned by AIR, titled AIR Share: Australian Independent Music Market Report, was the first market analysis of the industry in Australia. It showed that indie labels represented 30% of revenue generated by the Australian recorded music market, and that 57% of independent sector revenue was from Australian artists, which put the Australian sector in the Top 10 global list of mainly English-speaking indie music markets, according to then CEO of WIN (Worldwide Independent Network), Alison Wenham. (By comparison, the US indie market had a 34% share while the UK had 23%.)
The report valued the Australian recording industry as worth A$399.4 million, sixth largest music market in the world in terms of revenue and ahead of countries with higher populations such as Canada and South Korea. Digital revenue, at 44%, had overtaken that coming from physical sales, at 33%. A spokesperson from the company Unified Music Group said that governments were beginning to recognise the financial and cultural worth of a thriving music industry, but there was still a big challenge for the independents to compete with well-funded tech companies that have an anti-copyright agenda.
In 2017, Finland's indie market share had the lowest share of the total music market, at only 16%.
In 2017, Korea's indie market showed the healthiest share of the total music market, 88%.
In 2017, the UK indie market had a 23% share of the total music market.
In 2017, the US indie market had a 34% share of the total music market.
A record label, or record company, is a brand or trademark of music recordings and music videos, or the company that owns it. 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 promote their singles on 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.
The Orchard is an American music and entertainment company, specializing in media distribution, marketing, and sales. It is a subsidiary of Sony Music, based in New York City. In 2019, the company sold off its film and television division, which was renamed 1091 Media.
Warner Music Group Corp. (WMG) 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, WMG was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange from 2005 until 2011, when it announced its privatization and sale to Access Industries. It later had its second IPO on Nasdaq in 2020, once again becoming a public company. With a multibillion-dollar annual turnover, WMG employs more than 3,500 people and has operations in more than 50 countries throughout the world.
The Association of Independent Music (AIM) is a non-profit trade body established in 1998 by UK independent record labels to represent the independent record sector, which in 2016 constituted approximately 23% of the UK market. Its members include record labels, self-releasing artists and distributors.
Cooking Vinyl is a British independent record label, based in Acton, London, England. Founded in 1986 by former manager and booking agent Martin Goldschmidt and business partner Pete Lawrence. Goldschmidt remains the current owner and chairman, while Rob Collins is managing director. The company focuses on artist service-based deals where the artist retains ownership of their copyrights.
Beggars Group is a British record company that owns or distributes several other labels, including 4AD, Rough Trade Records, Matador Records, XL Recordings and Young Turks.
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 1920s 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.
The music industry consists of the companies and independent artists that earn money by creating new songs and pieces and organising live concerts and shows, audio and video recordings, compositions and sheet music, and the organizations and associations that aid and represent music creators. Among the many individuals and organizations that operate in the industry are: the songwriters and composers who create new songs and musical pieces; the singers, musicians, conductors and bandleaders who perform the music; the companies and professionals who create and sell recorded music and/or sheet music ; and those that help organize and present live music performances.
Cherry Red Records is a British independent record label founded by Iain McNay in 1978. The label has released recordings by Dead Kennedys, Everything But the Girl, The Monochrome Set, and Felt, among others, as well as the compilation album Pillows & Prayers. In addition to releasing new music, Cherry Red also acts as an umbrella for individual imprints and catalogue specialists.
Festival Records was an Australian recording and publishing company founded in Sydney, Australia, 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.
Redeye Distribution, which is based in Hillsborough, North Carolina, United States, began in 1996 by focusing on the independent music of the southeast and providing the artists that made up the scene with a distribution option to give them access to all retail accounts located in their region. Over the course of the last two decades, Redeye has charted a course of steady, sustainable growth by developing a strong physical and digital distribution network both nationally and internationally and providing a multitude of services to distribution partners. Services provided by Redeye include worldwide physical and digital distribution, marketing, and manufacturing.
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.
Minos EMI is a record company based in Athens, Greece. The company serves as the Greek record label and offices of the multinational Universal Music Group.
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 Breathe, Gin Blossoms, Dishwalla, Joe Cocker, Procol Harum, Captain & Tennille, Sting, Sergio Mendes, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Supertramp, Bryan Adams, Burt Bacharach, Liza Minnelli, The Carpenters, Paul Williams, Quincy Jones, Janet Jackson, Cat Stevens, Peter Frampton, Elkie Brooks, Carole King, Styx, Extreme, Amy Grant, Joan Baez, the Human League, The Police, Jann Arden, CeCe Peniston, Shanice, Blues Traveler, Soundgarden, Duffy, and Sheryl Crow.
The Australian Independent Record Labels Association, formerly Association of Independent Record Labels, is a non-profit trade association which supports the growth and development of Australia's independent recording industry independent recording industry. It represents Australian-owned record labels and independent artists based in Australia who function without the backing of major record labels.
The Independent Music Companies Association (IMPALA), originally the Independent Music Publishers and Labels Association, is a non-profit trade association established in April 2000 to help European independent record labels represent their agenda and promote independent music. Its offices are in Brussels, Belgium. IMPALA's main mission is to grow the independent music sector, along with promotion of cultural diversity, and improving the perceptions of the industry.
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.
Kobalt Music Group is an independent rights management and publishing company. Founded in 2000 by CEO Willard Ahdritz, Kobalt acts primarily as an administrative publishing company, not owning any copyrights. Also offering label services and neighboring rights, the company has developed an online portal to provide royalty income and activity to artists and allow them to manage their rights and royalties directly.
Believe is a Paris-based company that helps “artists build audiences and careers” through its focus on music technology and services, including worldwide digital distribution. It has more than 20 brands and labels, including distributor for independent musicians TuneCore, distributor Groove Attack, Believe Distribution Services, and labels such as AllPoints, Naïve, and Nuclear Blast.