The New Music Economy
by Jonathan Jaeger
The New Music Economy is upon us. Independent artist duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis made a guest appearance on “The Colbert Report” to discuss their decision to stay independent and not sign a 360 deal with a major label despite their megahit status with their song “Thrift Shop”. Apparently, not only do you keep your creative freedom by staying independent, but you can also make more money too.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, instead of signing an onerous contract with a major, “rented” Warner Brothers to help them get radio airplay. As much as the digital age and YouTube make radio feel obsolete, it’s still a big force in mainstream America—outside of the subways of big cities and Spotify-filled speakers of young company offices, terrestrial radio dictates chart-toppers.
Radio is just one slice of the pie though, so Macklemore and Ryan Lewis really didn’t need the all-inclusive deals the major labels thirst for up-and-coming artists to sign. The successful indie artists now have the leverage in negotiation and major labels aren’t as relevant as they once were. Expect the major label and big studio dominance to corrode even more as artists like Amanda Palmer crowdfund full album recordings and tours on Kickstarter or Zach Braff (“Scrubs”) and Kristin Bell (“Veronica Mars”) raise their own money from fans to create full-production movies.
The answer for all the artists still trying to gain a footing in this crazy industry? You no longer have to ask permission to succeed. The cost of doing business is coming closer to zero, so no more asking big-wigs at major labels (or even small indie labels) to take a chance on you. The world now has to take a chance on you and the best way to do it is to release stuff early and release it often: for everyone to see. Now.