Streaming music is a music lover’s dream. We now have access to the work of a wide range of artists, either for free (with ads) or for a small monthly fee. Popular artists are even making money on the model, with heavy rotation with services like Pandora, Beats, and Spotify. For smaller artists, however, the results aren’t always great.
For better or worse, a future where most music is available for streaming looks unavoidable. Recognizing this, independent record labels and their artists are finding ways to ride the wave on their own terms.
Sub Pop Records, the good people who released the albums of Nirvana (and for you Millennials, The Shins), just announced a partnership with streaming service Drip.fm. For $10/month, users can listen to a Sub Pop ‘feed’ featuring the label’s albums, singles, and exclusive tracks.
Sub Pop may be the biggest indie label trying to connect with their fans in this way, but they’re not the only one. Jagjaguwar, Secretly Canadian, and Fool’s Gold have made similar deals with Drip.fm. The argument goes that not only are artists going to better compensated with this model, but that labels will actually be able to use it to forge a stronger bond with their community.
Brand loyalty is very real in the world of independent music, with a tight-knit group of serious fans looking for ways to connect. Sub Pop was able to promote their brand via mix tapes and CDs in the 90′s, and are looking for the next generation of the model. People don’t want to connect with an algorithm, they want to connect to artists and each other.
With digital sales declining year to year as streaming services become more prevalent, even a small fan base willing to pay labels directly are being seen as a lifeline. How else could emerging or niche artists ever hope to make a living? A single stream of a song only brings a fraction of a cent to the artist.
A collection of independent artists created a service called Other People. In this model, users pay $5/month for a subscription that includes a weekly offering of songs. While not a major money-maker like Spotify, the project began paying for itself almost immediately.
While major streaming services still have something to offer to indie labels, like a way to get their music in the hands of anyone around the world, it presents a very real problem. We can expect to see more imaginative and cooperative concepts from indie labels in the near future.