Nielson’s 12 Breakthough Indie Artists

image from shopstampafe.com Earlier this week Tom Silverman shared his analysis of Nielson Soundscan numbers that showed that only 14 indie and indie label artists (now reduced to 12) had sold 10,000 albums in 2008 for the first time.  These are 12 albums out of 105,575 new album releases that year. Tom will release 2009 figures at the New Music Seminar in LA on February 2nd. (Hypebot has 2 for 1 tickets.)

Critics of the analysis point out the limits of using only Nielson numbers to measure a breakthrough.A quick look at the list shows other flaws including Bon Iver who had sold more than 10K unter other monikers and STS9 who I'm sure have sold more than 10,000 copies of previous releases on the road to its large and loyal fan base.


  • Record Label: Jagjaguwar (US/CAN)
  • Album: For Emma Forever Ago  103,112


  • Record Label: TMI Entertainment
  • Album: Grindin’ For a Purpose  29,119


  • Record Label: CaptainHooks/ Big Karma
  • Album: Cas Haley  22,580


  • Record Label: SHANGRILA
  • Album: Neptune   19,403


  • Record Label: BreakSilence
  • Album: Reach  16,133


  • Record Label: Strange Music/DeadMan
  • Album: Tales From the Sick 14,929


  • Record Label: Brash Music
  • Album: Running Back To You  14,785


  • Record Label: GO Aloha Entertainment
  • Album: Nothing To Hide  14,262


  • Record Label: Expunged Records,
  • Album: 3 Rounds & A Sound   11,281


  • Record Label: +1 Records
  • Album: Talking Through Tin Cans  11,201


  • Record Label:  1320 Records
  • Album: PEACEBLASTER    10,601


  • Record Label: Reach Records
  • Album:20-20  10,003

Share on:


  1. Tommy Silverman’s opinion pieces show that it’s no longer meaningful to use Neilsen figures when discussing today’s recorded music sales.
    The burgeoning music market of today’s up-and-coming artists is, for the most part, not tracked by Neilsen.

  2. Amen. A number like “103,112” (Bon Iver) sort of implies a degree of accuracy that is simply not true. I would read that as 100-200k. So many sales venues are not tracked, and those are disproportionately indie.

  3. Make it 11, not 12, breakthrough artists for 2008. STS9 is Sound Tribe Sector 9, and they’ve been releasing albums for about a decade. STS9 is one of those bands that does far better on the road than at retail. They passed the obscurity line a long time ago.
    @Neil: If those sales are disproportionately indie, SoundScan may be overcounting, not undercounting. That’s because indie stores are weighted (to account for the indie stores that are not tracked). In this case, a high percentage of sales were digital — which are not weighted.

  4. ??? My issues with this list are what he considers indie? We (kidzinthehall) are indie.. distributed by e1 and we sold over 20k records “for the first time” in 2008. Why aren’t we on the list? I also know other friends/artists who are indie and have done the same and all these numbers are recorded by soundscan.

  5. The birth of Nashville Indie Label Per Capita Records and exponential growth of other peppy indie labels has given me all new hope when it comes to finding breaking edge, avant-garde, independent artists and releases of ALL genres. Not often you see an indie label with such eclectic taste, especially coming from the Nashville indie scene (Per Capita Records is based in Nashville). I do hope however, that iTunes comes up with a better way to work with smaller indie labels.
    Viva La Indie Revolution!

Comments are closed.