Independent music companies On a simple level, independents are seen as being at the opposite end of the institutional spectrum from the Big Four music majors majors independents EMI Sony Music Entertainment Warner Music Group Universal Music Group
Some independents Beggars – includes Beggars Banquet (Charlatans), 4AD (Pixies), XL (White Stripes, Prodigy, Dizzee Rascal) Rough Trade – The Smiths, The Strokes, Belle and Sebastian, The Libertines, Arcade Fire, Antony and the Johnsons Domino Records – Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys
Independent music companies Differences from majors: Defined as not being owned by another (larger) company Definitely not part of a major music company When an independent company becomes very successful, it may well be a target for takeover by a major music company
Independent music companies Similarities to majors: Some indies are bigger than others: may be just one music label, but may own a range of music labels Will have artists / bands signed to them, just as majors do The process of production, distribution and exchange is similar to that of the majors, but on a smaller scale
Independent music companies Independent / indie labels are often thought of as producing more authentic music (in contrast to mass-produced, manufactured music from the majors) seeing music as creative art, rather than commercial product giving their artists more artistic freedom to produce the music they want, rather than fitting into an existing music formula that has been proven to sell
Perceptions ofmajors and independents Have very little money Produce obscure music by artists that no-one has heard of Their music is hard to categorise, so gets called “alternative” Are not so motivated by profit Have lots of money Promote mainstream artists Produce standardised, formulaic music Sole aim is to make more money
But how accurate are these perceptions?
Domino Records Visit http://www.dominorecordco.com/ to consider Domino Records as a case study of a UK independent: How is the label structured? Consider the range of artists signed to Domino and the styles of music Do they fit into one genre Do they fit the stereotype of ‘alternative’? How does it distribute / allow its music to be consumed? How has the internet helped the success of the label?
majors v indies MYTHS MYTH: artists on indie labels produce “alternative” (non-mainstream) music that will not sell Arctic Monkeys Franz Ferdinand The Strokes Oasis
majors v indies MYTHS MYTH: artists on indie labels are all “breaking new ground” It can be argued that the most successful artists are just recycling past musical styles and images
majors v indies MYTHS MYTH: the output of the Big Four majors is all standardised, formulaic material. All of these have an indie image, but are / were contracted to the majors: Radiohead - Parlophone - EMI Sonic Youth - Geffen - Universal Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Funeral for a Friend - labels owned by Warner Music Group The Kaiser Chiefs - Universal (after indie start)
majors v indies MYTHS MYTH: the majors do not allow “alternative” artists creative control, and do not really support them It can be argued that the majors can allow more risk-taking, because they can cover any losses through their more profitable mainstream artists. “Alternative” artists can draw on the strength of a major music company to market and distribute their music
majors v indies PROMOTION The size and strength of the majors means they can put more money into promoting their music (advertising campaigns, appearances, radio airplay etc.) secure better distribution of their music (getting it stocked in shops) Awards ceremonies, like The Brits, act as a promotional vehicle for the majors.
majors v indies PROMOTION Independent labels can be swamped by the power of the majors in promotion and distribution. However, awards like the Mercury Music Prize, that are based on musical performance rather than production budget, advertising hype or sales, can help promote independent labels’ artists XL’s Dizzee Rascal, 2003 Domino’s Franz Ferdinand, 2004 Rough Trade’s Antony and the Johnsons, 2006