The independent music sector is larger and stronger than ever.
As the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) convenes Indie Week in New York June 17-20, executives and artists can celebrate the growth of the worldwide indie music business.
Independent labels generated $6.9 billion in global music sales in 2017 (the most recent estimated figure), up from $6.2 billion the previous year, according to a report released late last year by Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), an umbrella organization for indie trade groups, including A2IM.
The 11.3% rise in revenue means that indies now represent 39.9% of the global recorded-music market, up marginally from 39.6% in 2016, says the third annual WINTEL study from MIDiA Research.
(In contrast to other industry reports, WIN’s figures are based on revenue generated through rights ownership rather than distribution, which the organization says provides a more accurate overview of the marketplace.)
“With two out of every five ‘purchases’ of music going to the independent sector, now may be a good time to draw a breath and celebrate this incredible achievement,” said Martin Mills, founder of Beggars Group and nonexecutive chair of WIN, at the time the report was released.
Of course, behind the sales numbers are the songs and creativity of thousands of indie artists. To illustrate the power and impact of those performers, consider just one: John Prine, whose The Tree of Forgiveness debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 in April 2018. His first album of new songs in 13 years has led to a career resurgence for the 72-year-old singer-songwriter. Notably, The Tree of Forgiveness was released by Prine’s own Oh Boy Records, which he founded in 1981 and has been called the oldest indie label in Nashville. (His wife, Fiona Whelan Prine, is Oh Boy’s managing partner. Their son, Jody Whelan, is director of operations.)
“People thought we were crazy for starting a record company,” Prine told Billboard in 2018. “They really thought I was shooting myself in the foot. I just liked the idea of owning what you did, owning the masters and not having to deal with [major-label pressures]: ‘Can you sell as many records as this group or this or that?’ I just bought a little record company; I had no idea we were on the right path.”
The 80 executives on the third annual Indie Power Players list would likely second Prine’s emotion. Each has opted to play a role in a sector of the record industry that thrives apart from the multinational major music groups. The sales results say they are all on the right path.
I am humbled and thankful to be apart of this great list again. None of this however is possible with the entire team at Symphonic as well as our incredible clients. Check out the entire list and here is the excerpt on me and Symphonic.
JORGE BREA, 34
Founder/CEO, Symphonic Distribution
“Independence is the ability to be reactive [and] pivot,” says Brea, who knows a thing or two about pivoting. Moving early in his life from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to Tampa, Fla., Brea spent his teen years working as a DJ-producer and releasing original music on vinyl, which inspired the creation of Symphonic Distribution when he was only 21. Today, he connects indie acts of all genres to streaming platforms and recently announced that his company had expanded its presence in Nashville and Bogota, Colombia. “We’ve been able to grow 35% year over year for the past five years,” he says, adding that while one of the strongest regions for streaming is Latin America, new artists are breaking out from African countries and the Middle East.