Industry QnA – Session 1: Indie Musician Insights

Welcome to the very first installment of our exciting new “Industry QnA” features with musician and founder of The Sugo Music Group, Stevan Pasero! Stevan kicks things off by answering some interesting questions that we’re sure many artists would like to know more about.

So, without further ado, let’s dive straight in.

Question 1: What does it mean to be an indie musician today?

It means that today’s musicians can write, perform, and record what they want without pressure from outside sources. They can then distribute their works to global audiences using various new technologies and marketing tactics.

Independent artists make up an ever-growing percentage of the global music industry - the highest share of the market since the early ’90s. The independent music segment is growing faster than the rest of the industry, thanks partly to streaming services like YouTube and Spotify and social media giants like TikTok and Instagram. So, what exactly does it mean to be an indie musician? If you’re not signed to a major label—one that has more than 5 percent market share—then you’re an indie artist!

Being an indie artist is full of incredible opportunities to be the musician you want to be. It’s an opportunity to grow, discover, and experiment. If you want to be a guest on someone else’s album, tour a particular area, or create and sell your own merchandise, you can.

Today’s musicians are not stylistically limited to structured music genres. More than ever, artists can integrate indigenous music styles into their works. Mainstream music is boundless, not tethered to traditional and generic cookie-cutter styles. Artists can experiment with mixing and mashing genres, lyrics, and techniques. You can blend folk and rap together or merge electronica and classical. If you want to experiment with something new, switch up your sound completely, or change your brand image, you can! Staying independent gives you complete control over your sound and style, allowing creative and artistic freedom.

More indie artists are now finding ways to successfully work outside the world built by the major labels. While labels certainly have an advantage regarding outreach—so does the indie artist. This isn’t like it was 20 years ago when you would have needed to rely solely on a label’s infrastructure, marketing, and distribution to have any success. There are many tactics and tools to deploy: communications using social media, group texts, emails, and music and video on YouTube, Soundcloud, and various other digital service providers to reach burgeoning fanbases.

This is not to say that everything is 100% straightforward. Still, many barriers have been removed, or at least lessened, over the last few decades. Musicians have direct access to music distribution services, artist marketing services, and other DIY digital resources to help move their careers to the next level. 

Question 2: You started a record label. Why? Should I?

Setting up a label is a good strategy, helping you to better understand the industry’s business side. You’ll learn how essential elements of the industry work and come together, providing knowledge and tools to help you distribute and publish your music in the marketplace.

Setting up a record label lets you have a media hub for all your entertainment ventures. With your hub, you can choose a distributor and publisher, book your gigs, implement social media strategies, manage your merchandise, and more. Many contemporary artists started their own record labels. Dave Grohl (Roswell Records), Diddy (Bad Boy Records), Jay Z (Roc Nation), Prince (NPG Records), Nas (Mass Appeal), and Eminem (Shady Records) are all artists who delved into the music industry business side and used their labels as music hubs for various music business opportunities. 

When you learn how to run a record label, you’ll know how to run a business. It will teach you to be organized, budget and plan, and be accountable for your actions and efforts. As you will likely release your recordings and songs globally, you should know how copyrights work in domestic and foreign territories. Understanding your copyrights will help you claim royalties as a rights holder and songwriter.

When you know how to successfully run a label and release music, you can choose to sign other artists. Once the processes are set up, you can offer your label services to other artists and then take part in sharing their royalty revenue. Suppose you want to branch out into artist management. In that case, you can also offer this service through your label, providing additional income streams.

If your objective is to be signed by a major or large indie label, remember that these labels often seek self-starters who understand how the industry works. Creating a record label is a good step in this direction.

Are you an indie musician in need of an experienced independent distributor to get your music onto all the right streaming and download platforms? The Sugo Music Group has more than 35 years of experience in the industry. And their experts can distribute your music to over 200 platforms in 180 countries. Contact The Sugo Music Group team to take your music career to new heights.

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