Music Rule 4080: To Be or Not Be Independent

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The music industry has provided an outlet for listeners to feel and express themselves through the years. Music artists use their lyrics to transcribe their life, opinions, and style into melodies. Some, also use music to make a statement to the music industry. A classic line from A Tribe Called Quest is stated, “industry rule number four-thousand-and-eighty, record company people are shady”. The words belonging to group member Q-tip was used in their The Low End Theory album released in 1991. The group had something to say and shed light on the darkness of the music industry. This line in hip-hop still proves relevancy to the opinion of some today in the music industry. As the genre maintains its mark on society and culture one will find that it is the desire to do just that rather than to land a record deal with a music company.

What exactly does it mean to be an independent artist? Many have their own definition of the term but in general the description can be defined as freedom. As an unsigned music artist, the individual is responsible for themselves financially. Artists, musicians, and bands who find themselves ditching the record label deals might self-publish their own albums, fund their own shows, and possibly set up their own endorsements. With the reward of an indie artist being profit and flexibility of self expression, the road to this success does not come with ease. In fact, not only deciding to remain independent but also starting your own indie label will be funded by one’s self. While the decision may seem one without doubt for some artists. Others still find success through contacts and partnerships with record labels. It is with the funds and contacts of recording companies that can also contribute to the success of music artists. These companies with an eye and experience in music, branding, and visuals can aid musicians in creating and retaining a following base.

On the contrary, social media plays apart in the innovation of the independent artist today. Through social platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook artists are presented with the opportunity of free marketing. Unsigned artist Chance The Rapper, have put the spotlight back on independent artists with his recent win of three awards at The Grammy's. Dating back to the 90’s era, R&B heartthrobs Mint Condition created a legacy in music as independent artists as well. The New School in New York City held a Music + Tech - Getting the Music Heard panel that discussed music, technology, and streaming. Music professionals from SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora and Bandcamp spoke on the evolution of the music industry and where it stands today in the hands of the consumer.

Fast forward to today's music industry, innovation within technology has made the option of going unsigned easier to decide. With music apps like SoundCloud, Spotify, and YouTube Music amateurs and professionals alike have the opportunity to stream music to listeners at the tip of their fingers. By listing the pros and cons of going independent, the artist can decide ultimately what is best for their career.