Sunday, January 31, 2010

Independents v Majors

I was interested to read a recent TechDirt article about a post from the MusicThinkTank in which it is stated that of the 227 artists that sold over 10,000 albums last year, 14 of these were independents, 107 were signed to independent labels and 106 were signed to major labels. I note that this blog emphasises that less than 1% were completely independent, however I was more interested in the break down between independent labels and major record labels.

One of the hardest statistics to find for my research has been a break down of sales according to record labels/independents. There is one wikipedia page which provides some outdated statistical information (and which for a post graduate student is not considered to be a reliable enough source) but there is nothing else that I have come across so far that details the overall sales attributable to each record label.

The changing dynamics of the digital music environment appear to be assisting in some regards to even out the sales of artists signed to independent labels rather than the traditional major label favoritism of the far more centralised, physical distribution system. However this is often difficult to determine given that individual companies do not always detail their profit and loss statements in terms of actual track sales (the RIAA and other inter/national organisations around the globe do provide holistic statistics but not on a label by label basis).

I have long wondered whether independent labels were increasingly able to gain greater exposure and attract the commercial engagement of listeners in the digital environment. While it is a development that many would suggest to be a natural consequence of a far more open architecture, lower costs and social norms of reciprocity and altruism, nonetheless it is very difficult to see these changes flow on to mass media exposure. Furthermore, the cacophony of information on the internet makes it very difficult to gain an idea about what new artists are having an impact or not. Indeed the only real physical representation of the success of these artists from an external point of view can often be their concerts and yet unless you are there yourself it is nearly impossible to know if anyone else is or not.

It would be great to have a more detailed source of information on the progress of independent artists and labels so as to know whether or not the changes to the music industry were assisting them or not. On the basis of this very simple and largely unreferenced statistic, it appears as though this is possible, however it is very difficult to find a reliable source for this type of information. If you know where I can get a report that shows the break down of this information please let me know.

More Information
TechDirt, Finding The Long Tail In Music (25 January 2010)
<> at 31 January 2010

No comments: