Australian Music is ALWAYS a rich vibrant scene. And it is a scene that is underpinned by Independent artists. These independent artists are the real battlers, the one’s that carry the load of the vibrant music scene. Financially it is a miserable livelihood however the emotional experience is rewarding. And there is no escaping that Australian Independent artists are some of the hardest working artists and also the lowest paid members of the Australian workforce. The sad thing is that the elite levels of Government have no idea about the Independent artists. Any Government funding goes to the large Industry bodies who don’t really disperse the monies to the artists doing the rounds on the streets.
In music we have APRA/AMCOS, ARIA, AMIN, AIR, AMA and so many other local and state bodies. So all of these industry groups and associations are part of the music industry. Their main source of income is derived from Independent artists and Government Grants. The same independent artists that are living on or below the poverty line. For these artists, the larger music industry bodies are faceless monoliths that put profit first. While they may serve the major players in the Australian music industry, they do nothing for the rest. It is another example of taking care of the one percenters and forgetting about the rest.
The solution is for the mainstream to support and nurture independent artists. These music industry bodies need to ensure that all of the diversity and innovation created by the independent sector is supported and nurtured. Because the independent sector is the oxygen of the mainstream industry bodies. Once you cut them off and the major bodies will suffocate.
That is why it is great to see that 80% of the nominations for the latest ARIA Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album Of The Year category were released “independently”. For the uninformed independent or “indie” is basically an artist or a record label that has no connection to a major label or interference from a major label. In most cases it is the DIY style of artist. However with everything that deals with the music business, the definition is more complex than it should be. Most indie labels operate without major labels interference, however they all still use the distribution and promotion arms of the major labels.
For example, Sumerian Records is an independent label in the US. They have distribution deals with the Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), who is the independent music and film distribution arm of Warner Music Group who is a major label.
Going back to the bands nominated for the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal ARIA, A DZ Deathrays “Black Rat” album was released on the independent label “I OH YOU” who has an affiliation with Mushroom Records who is owned by Warner Music Group. The Amity Affliction’s “Let The Ocean Take Me” and Shihad’s “FVEY” where released on Roadrunner Records who is a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. Sleepmakeswaves “Love Of Cartography” album was released through Australian independent record label Bird’s Robe Records, which is distributed through MGM Distribution in Australia. In 2013, UK label Monotreme Records licensed their album for an international release across the UK, Europe and North America. This is a true independent band and label in my eyes. High Tension’s “Death Beat” is under license to independent label Cooking Vinyl Records, who uses RED Distribution for U.S distribution and it is also owned by Sony.
Look at some of the successful crowd funding campaigns independent artists have taken.
In Australia, heavy rock band, “I Am Voyager” went to their fans with a goal of about $10,000 and ended up getting $18,000 plus. In the U.S, Protest The Hero went to market with a goal of about $115,000 and ended up getting $300,000 plus. Haste The Day went to market with a goal of $65,000 and ended up getting $139,276. Emery went to market with a goal of $50,000 and ended up raising $110,815. Spocks Beard went to their fans for their 11th album with a goal to raise $25,000 and ended up raising $69,119. Trapt had a goal to raise $50,000 and ended up raising $56,634. Chimaira went the crowd funding route for a fan edition CD-DVD of their CROWN OF PHANTOMS album with a goal of $30,000 and they ended up raising $60,758.
Independently minded musicians and label owners are the ones that are pushing boundaries in music because they want control over what’s being released, when it’s released, and how it’s released. And they are not afraid to use the major labels when it suits them, but ultimately they’re calling the shots.
So I am sick and tired of hearing the RIAA and major label rhetoric about how artists put in their blood, sweat and tears into their music and because of piracy they don’t have a say about how it is released. The “Indies” are finding new and creative ways all the time. For a musician it is an exciting time to be a part of the music scene. Especially if you are an indie.