The Rise of Independent Music

Indie labels maximize control

“I think that’s why you have a greater trend toward indies now because people realize, ‘Hey, I can put up a MySpace page and get 500,000 friends, and if I can get my songs on iTunes and get downloads, then somebody will pay me 99 cents for my music.’” Many artists are signing deals with iTunes, which greatly reduces costs. There are no warehousing or shipping costs because there is no physical product.

There’s more than one way to be independent (see sidebar, “What’s the Deal?”), and how much an idie artist makes depends on his or her arrangement. In general, an indie performer can earn as much as 40% to 75% of net profits, through profit-sharing deals, according to After all expenses have been paid, the profits are split between the label and the artist.

Chris Hicks, senior vice president, head of Urban Music for Warner Chapel Music and senior vice president of A&R Urban Music for Atlantic Records, says, in addition to the money earned, there’s a big difference in the contract’s duration. An indie’s contract could be for one year, while an artist working with a major label could be working for three to five years, he says. When Tamia was with Atlantic, she had a multi-album deal with options. Now, she has a one-album deal with Image Entertainment, a distribution company that she hired to package and distribute her album. It’s too early to tell how much money she’s made from record sales, Tamia says, but she believes the profits will be greater now that she has her own label. “I don’t need to sell as many albums to make as much,” she says.

Tamia said it was her success with Electra that made it easier for her to become an indie artist: “It’s not an option for everyone, but because I had an established name and have cultivated relationships, it was a bit easier.”

Indie Producer?
The indie game isn’t just for performers. Producer Bosko, who’s worked with Kanye West, E-40, Tupac, Lil Jon, Tyrese, and the Hot Boyz, fell into the independent game because growing up in Portland, Oregon, he had no access to major record labels. “I would send stuff out and it would be sent back,” he says.

Bosko came from a musical family but didn’t seriously think of getting into the business until he won a set of turntables in a break-dancing contest at age 11. He soon started earning money working as a deejay and eventually bought a drum machine and microphone. He moved to California when he was 17 to attend the University of Southern California and to be closer to the music business. He started sending out tapes; formed a rap group called 3 Way; and met E-40, who asked Bosko to produce the remix of “Sprinkle Me.” “It took off after that,” says Bosko of his career. In 2000, Bosko and his partner, rapper Cool Nutz, launched Jus Family Records, his independent production company. He produced Harsh Game with Cool Nutz,

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