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95.5% of Musicians Are Artist-Direct: New Report Redefines Artist Success in Modern Music Industry

Photo by Zachary Nelson / Unsplash

In addition to altering music consumption patterns, streaming has also changed the way artists, journalists, and music critics define success of musicians and their creative efforts. Sure, charts and radio plays still matter but the approach to defining what success is and what isn't is now more data-driven and comprehensive than ever.

Global music distribution company Amuse and market intelligence firm MIDiA Research have joined forces once again to present a comprehensive report on what success means for artists today. This collaboration, their third since they began tracking the independent and DIY music movements in 2019, showcases a transformed picture where traditional metrics of success are being replaced by more nuanced, artist-centric goals.

“Using MIDiA’s fifth annual survey of global independent music creators, along with in-depth interviews with artists and secondary research on longevity and success, we were able to re-evaluate what success looks like for the modern-day music artist,” explains Sofia Green, Director of Communications at Amuse in a press release. "Streaming has completely redefined what success looks like in the music industry."

How artists define success

Credit: MIDiA / Amuse

According to the report, for artists, success comes down to five universal career goals: Sustainability, recognition, progression, longevity, and legacy. In 2023, there was a surge in artists aiming to establish themselves in the music industry, yet fewer than 5% secured contracts with labels. What's interesting is that the artists working without label support experienced the most rapid growth.

Credit: MIDiA / Amuse

Keith Jopling, Consulting Director at MIDiA Research, criticised the industry's current data-driven approach: "The music industry's obsession with short-term data metrics has been damaging to its creative heart. Artists are pressured into a relentless cycle of production and promotion, leaving little time for true artistic development."

This push and pull of commercial success versus artist’s creative fulfillment and achievement of their creative goals has led to a relentless “always on” cycle. While current industry success metrics are often short-term goals attached to organisations rather than the individual artists, artists end up in a demanding systemic cycle. For instance, labels and publishers expect quick return on investment following a new release. With more music being distributed than ever before, artists feel pressure to release more music more often to keep up, all while promoting it on social media and engaging with their fans. With this workload, they are often left with little to no time to focus on developing their craft in order to attain their own definitions of creative success.

Credit: MIDiA / Amuse

Independent artists on the rise

Given these conflicting interests, no wonder that 95.5% of artists are artist-direct, meaning they release their music independently through a distributor or artist platform. When asked about their ideal partners, artists (full time professionals as well as music creators in general) preferred to work with distributors with label services, followed by self-serve platforms, and independent labels. Only 6% picked major labels.

“Only one out of five artists in the survey consider being signed by a record label as a metric of success, which represents a big shift in the industry. We see this on a daily basis as we work with breaking talent who are looking for a modern partner, designed for today’s landscape,” says John Dahlbäck, Head of A&R at Amuse in a press release.

Some other insightful findings from the report

  • Charts are more relevant to marketers than artists
  • Playlists are surpassed by the algorithm
  • Radio is no longer a tastemaker
  • Live touring is no longer the lifeblood for artists

Read the full report here.