Where Playlists Are Concerned, Artists Want Everyone To Know They’re Indie

1While not having the backing of a major label has its downsides, many artists wear their indie status as a badge of honor, and music distributor Record Union wants to take things a step further by getting streaming services to tag songs and playlists as 'independent' in much the same way as certain songs or playlists are tagged 'explicit'.


Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0

Being an indie artist can be looked at two ways – it’s either a badge of honor for having control over your own career destiny, or it’s someone that can’t get signed by a major label so they’re forced to do it themselves. Many choose the former point of view and prefer to stay outside the system, and it’s those artists that fight for the monicker of “indie” to be displayed at every chance. Digital music distributor Record Union has now launched a campaign to get streaming services not to pay higher royalties, but for the ability to tag a song on a playlist as from an independent artist or label.

In an open letter, the Record Union described how there’s already a tag for explicit content so a separate indie tag shouldn’t be that difficult to implement.

4The move is in response to a survey that discovered that most independent artists believe that streaming playlists favor major label artists and indie artists need some way to stand out. Indeed, the global market share for indie music is just under 30%, yet that share drops to just under 20% on streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and others. Plus, indie artists generally have a much smaller or even non-existent marketing budget as compared to an artist on a major label or subsidiary.

While it’s admirable that indie artists want to differentiate themselves, a playlist tag might not actually do much in terms of getting additional streams. There’s no evidence that music consumers actually look for indie artists over label artists, even though their tastes may favor that type of music more. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen, just that there’s no data for it yet.

It’s true that many artists are independent by choice in order to have more control over their music, but that freedom also brings several downsides as well. The Record Union campaign is trying to even things out a bit.

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  1. Unfortunately, “Indie” here in the UK means a style of music, not the word’s original meaning. They will need to use the whole word “Independent” rather than “Indie” to avoid misleading people. On a related note, I’d like streaming services to give us a lot more options when it comes to tagging our music. We can’t be the only people whose music doesn’t fit any of the categories the aggregators use or whose music crosses categories.

  2. It does seem that every band claims to be Indy, even when some are at the top of the billboard charts and signed to major labels. I tried creating a playlist of all of my favorite Indy bands. I update it all the time and there are already over 460 songs by great “indie” artists but I have been told not every artist are true indie artists.
    Regardless, it’s a great playlist and good way to learn of different bands claiming to be indie.
    Just hit shuffle and follow if you want to check out updates and new releases. Hope you enjoy.

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