Modern music has seen a huge paradigm shift because of technology advancements, social media, and streaming services.
Independent artists are continually breaking into the mainstream without the help of labels, and there are more avenues to achieve success than ever before. But there is also more competition, which means it takes a lot of courage for independent creatives to open themselves up to criticism. Today, we will look at the importance of this shift, and what it means for the future of the industry.
In 2018, a report from MIDiA Research showed that independent artists generated more than $643 million, which was a 35% jump from the year prior. Today, we see much less of an adherence to labels, and many new ways of doing business that involve fewer middlemen and shorter contracts. But what exactly fuels this mindset? LA-based multimedia artist Josh Menon helps us to understand.
Josh Menon is a singer, songwriter, and producer with three albums and two EPs that have over 300,000 streams across all platforms. When he was 16 years old, he became the youngest artist on Pepsi’s MTV Indies, and the youngest performer to headline The Gig Week music festival.
Following an internship with the award-winning talent agency Mosaic Media Group, known for clients like Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey, Menon relocated to Los Angeles from Chicago.
In LA, he recorded and released his album ‘My Only Platonic Love,’ which was received as a blend of “dynamism with genuine emotion” by Daily Music Roll and was quoted as having “an unparalleled and earthy sound that separates him from the crowd” by Digital Wall. Following this wave of success, he went on to compose music for Shenandoah National Park’s media team.
Menon also directs music videos and has extensive experience as a filmmaker. He has worked in the art department on a Super Bowl commercial for Tide (featuring Seinfeld star Jason Alexander) and a holiday commercial for GameStop. He has created video content for Women’s Startup Lab, whose CEO Ari Horie was named one of the 100 Powerful Women of 2020 by Entrepreneur Magazine. He has written screenplays with Emmy nominated writer Michael Karnow. And he works at the CLIO award-winning agency Petrol on creating video game media for clients like Activision, Sony, Disney, and UFC.
Freedom Encourages Experimentation
“Control is one of them,” says Josh Menon. “Current technology allows artists to share their work with their own style, and at their own pace. This means choosing where to play, what brand image to create, who to hire, and most importantly, which direction the art goes. This freedom encourages experimentation, and consequently pushes the boundaries of music forward, as we discover new ideas that might have been restricted in the past by the demands of label executives.”
Increased accessibility to software and equipment for home studios have made it easier for unsigned artists to create, and distribution services like DistroKid and CD Baby have made it easier for them to reach audiences on major platforms. After that, artists are getting creative and promoting their music on apps like TikTok, where the potential to build a community of fans is massive.
Focusing on What’s Important
Josh Menon believes “there is a creative and commercial independence arising from labels becoming an option rather than a prerequisite, and this has caused more artists to focus on earning loyal fan bases.”
Label or not, there is no guarantee of financial security, but most artists feel they have more control over their careers than before. This means there is a more positive outlook on working alongside music, either for stability, or to explore other passions. For Josh Menon, it’s filmmaking. “I enjoy having multiple mediums of expression because it allows me to learn from one and apply to another. It also gives me the opportunity to meet creatives with perspectives and experiences that are different from my own.”
Breaking the Mold
Despite the freedom that independent artists are retaining, there are still many obstacles. “Labels have more resources, experience and time. They also have a bigger network of industry professionals who can reach large audiences,” says Menon.
Therefore, it’s important to be conscious of who we support with our consumption. Using social media to find and support independent artists helps recognize their hard work and vulnerability, while simultaneously exposing others to their creativity. Without indie music, there would be nothing to break the mainstream mold. So, the next time you’re in the mood to hear something original that is made from passion rather than for success, consider supporting an indie artist!