The growth of streaming music services and shared playlists, along with the continued strength of YouTube, unleashed new forces in the music business last year, catapulting independent artists into the charts with increasing regularity. , according to music industry statistics.
As the grip of major music labels continued to loosen in the age of Pandora, Rdio and Spotify, one of the biggest independent stars, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, saw his hit song “Thrift Shop” reach number 1 in 2013, the first time since 1994 that a song without major label backing reached the top of the charts.
The song, released in August 2012, was also the No. 2 streaming video in the first half of 2013, with 187 million streams.
The rise of streaming music services, where major label control is weaker, and the decline of FM radio, where label control is strong, have had a clear effect on the power of indie.
In 2007, independents controlled 25.8% of the music industry, #2 behind Universal Music Group’s 28.8% share. As of June 30, 2013, indie – a universe that includes Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons – has overtaken Universal by increasing its market share to 34.5%, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Universal was at 28.3%.
Rich Bengloff, who heads the American Association of Independent Music, estimates that the availability and popularity of streaming music – which grew 24% in the first half of 2013, while digital sales fell 4.6% in during the period, its very first decline – is exactly why artists opt for independent status and why their power grows.
Unsurprisingly, Pandora founder Tim Westergren is courting independents. Songs outside of the major labels make up 50% of content streamed on the 14-year-old service. On the radio, it’s 13%.
“There are artists who were invisible in the music industry who are now exposed to an audience big enough to support them,” Westergren told The Post this week. “There is an opportunity for a really well run group to take control of their career.”
Pandora (which in a regulatory filing said it had 70.9 million active users as of October 31, up 8% this year) has worked with independent artists to develop tools like letting them know where lies their richest concentration of fans so they can better plan tour locations, Westergren said, speaking while on vacation in Australia.
“Indies support Pandora because it’s a level playing field, not a walled garden,” Westergren says.
While indie artists and their labels are having fun and cashing in during the early stages of the Pandora era, no one believes the greats are going away.
Independents are still tied to major labels for distribution. Macklemore & Lewis is supported by Warner Music’s Alternate Distribution Alliance.
And the majors, seeing the rise of independent labels, gobbled up some of the most successful.