Spotify ‘experiment’ shakes up the Big 3; opportunity for indie artists

Spotify has big record labels in a tizzy over a policy that may help indie artists. Before this new initiative, if you wanted to get to the top of the charts by traditional means, you had three options. Now it appears indie artists will have another potentially better option, and the labels who’ve controlled the industry are not too happy about it. 

First you have to put the reigning model in context. Reported by WRAL (North Carolina TV channel 5) via The New York Times:

“Almost every artist today who reaches the top of the charts — whether Kanye or Adele, Beyoncé or Drake — has gotten there with help from one of the three conglomerates that control around 80 percent of the business: Universal, Sony and Warner.”

Think about that for a moment. Those Big 3 significantly influence who makes it and who doesn’t. It goes without saying consumers should be pickier, but that’s elective on the part of the consumer.

Now Spotify is trying something else:

“Over the last year, the 12-year-old company has quietly struck direct licensing deals with a small number of independent artists. The deals give those artists a way onto the streaming platform and a closer relationship to the company — an advantage when pitching music for its influential playlists — while bypassing the major labels altogether.”

The whole article on Spotify’s “experiment”  is posted at WRAL. If you’re a maker of music or a consumer of music, you might want to read it.

My own take is that today technology gives artists the means to go solo in the industry. A number of groups have built their own following using resources and tools not available until recently. For musicians who aren’t creators but work solely as performers, the traditional method may work best.

But if you’re creating content and you’ve had a good response to it as we’ve experienced in a number of ways with my daughters’ work, it may be worth vesting some resources into doing things your own way.

For instance if you’re approached by an industry insider who wants you to change your look, recreate your brand, and compose according to prompts or legally record someone else’s composition, you may be willing to do that if you are aiming at being an entertainer rather than a songwriter/performer.

Rebecca nixed one very tempting offer for that very reason. I thought about that when I saw an exchange she had with another musician who implied what she might do if the “country music thing” didn’t work out. Ironically, it’s already working out very well. She and her sister are living the dream. And surviving the dream at the same time.

Will Spotify lead to more independence in art and culture? I hope so. Too many voices are shut out, and too much control is vested in the big three, and we, the consumer have handed that control over to them.

When I think of the current barriers, I think of Jenn Bostic. In a world of merit, her song “Love You” (Bostic and Bart Walker) would be at the top of the charts and played frequently on radio. She’s an incredibly talented artist.

I hope Spotify opens more doors for artists like Bostic. I think this new “experiment” will.

For now, you can influence the market. Ask streaming services to play favorites by indie artists. Call radio stations and do the same. Buy indie music. Singers aren’t the only people with a voice–you have one too.

(Kay B. Day/Sept. 6, 2018)

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