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DIY distributor calls for independent music to be tagged on streaming platforms

By | Published on Tuesday 27 November 2018

Record Union

DIY music distributor Record Union is calling on the streaming services to introduce a tag that identifies tracks released by independent artists and labels.

The company reckons that the majors are too dominant on the key streaming platforms and that playlists on those services frequently favour more mainstream – and therefore major label released – music. And when it surveyed over 1000 independent music makers, 69% of them also felt that the streaming services and their playlists generally skew mainstream.

It’s true that the three majors together account for a majority of the listening on the streaming platforms. Although precise market share figures depend on how you measure these things. Market share stats for the majors often include all the music they distribute on behalf of the indies through their label services divisions Caroline, The Orchard and ADA.

This skews things quite a bit, and is one of the reasons why the World Independent Network started putting out its WINTEL report, which does the maths based on independently controlled recordings rather than independently distributed recordings. Meanwhile, figures from indie label repping Merlin have generally shown that indies perform better in the streaming space than they do when all recorded music revenues are added up.

However, it is certainly true that – with so much music being pumped into the streaming platforms every day – standing out from the crowd is harder than it has ever been. And major labels – with more money and more people – can do much bigger marketing campaigns. Which doesn’t always work, but certainly gives their artists an advantage.

With a relatively small number of people in control of the human-curated playlists that drive so much listening on the key streaming services, those teams can’t receive direct face-to-face pitches from everyone. So again, the majors have an advantage, in that they will have direct access to key playlisters, and can afford to build hype beyond the streaming platforms that will also influence playlisting decisions.

So, although the shift to digital and streams has made it much easier to get music to market, has benefited many indies overall, and has allowed a small number of DIY artists to truly breakthrough without a traditional label deal, the money, the contacts, the resources and the infrastructure of a major record company is still beneficial, especially for new talent.

Whether an ‘independent artist’ tag on the streaming platforms would help such artists secure many more streams is debatable. For some users, it might make them more likely to click play on a track. Though for many others, it probably wouldn’t make any difference. But it’s still an interesting proposal.

Record Union boss Johan Svanberg writes in an open letter to the streaming firms: “We know that we won’t change the industry overnight, but the first thing we would like you to do is to acknowledge independent music. We want independent music creators to have the ability to tag their music in your product – just as you tag explicit content. This would help independent music creators to stand out in a crowd full of major label backed artists and it would also help consumers to actively choose to listen to independent music”.

You can read the open letter and sign a petition here.