Why are More Hip-Hop Artists Going Independent?


Lately, many new artists are remaining independent and covering the costs of their careers. Just shy of six years ago, Chance the Rapper was the first rapper to win a Grammy as an independent artist. And later, it was becoming more visible that other artists followed suit.

Why are Artists Migrating to Independence?

The short answer could be learning from the past. Lately, social media has been unraveling the hardships and encrypted contracts our favorite artists have encountered by their record labels. For example, the legend Anita Baker called a public protest asking fans to stop streaming her records until the label adhered to her contract and relinquished her masters. Recently we are experiencing a public outrage between Megan thee Stallion and 1501 Entertainment. Even our favorites, Jay-Z and Ye have become billionaires and still cannot obtain their life's work.

We could talk on and on about similar stories of how artists who have dedicated their entire lives touring and recording end up owing the label. Because of such platforms as Spotify and Tik Tok, indie artists can release their music and reap 100% of the benefits. Per Rolling Stone, " A label will give back something like 20 percent of their royalties — so someone like Lil Uzi Vert, who I think made $8 million from one song, will only receive $2 million back after they take out his advance and all the money they spent." Even if an artist signed to an independent music label, they would still earn more than if signed to a traditional record label.

What is Considered an Independent Artist?

According to Point Blank Entertainment, "an unsigned artist, unsigned band or independent artist is a musician or musical group not under a contract with a record label. Bands that release their material on self-published CDs can also be considered unsigned bands." Most people like to be backed by the labels as their money and connections are miles long. However, when artists decide to be independent or sign to an independent company, they may not be afforded that financial or network advantage.

However, some artists still rise to the top due to hard work and the constant support of praise. It may be an extended road; however, the pride that comes with owning one's music and balancing one self's book comes with unfound freedom. Therefore, these artists encourage upcoming artists of their dreams to come to fruition with or without a label.



What Does that Mean for Record Labels?

Although record labels provide heavy financial backing, better technology, and infinite connections, some artists still choose to become independent. The rise in music streaming and a decline in physical sales attribute to the declination of the record labels. Per Hip Hop Unrapped, "the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) reported that 95.5% of the music industry’s revenue came from CD sales. Nowadays, 75% of that money comes from streaming, only 10% from physical sales. This is devastating to record labels as they make drastically less money off of streaming."

Recording labels attempt to recover from the losses, created the "360 deals". These deals involve the record company receiving a percentage from digital sales, touring, merchandise profits, television appearances, and songwriting. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding these deals, yet some artists are still signing them. Although public opinion believes the music industry is dying, it is apparent the music industry is not dead. Ultimately, it is up to the music artist to weigh the pros and cons before making this life-changing decision.




Written by : Renita of "Be Your Own Kind"

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