In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a phase of consolidation in the record industry that led to almost all major labels being owned by a very few multinational companies. CDs still flow through a handful of sources, with the majority of the sales going through the “big three” record labels.
Resurgence of independent labels
In the 1990s, as a result of the widespread use of home studios, consumer recording technology, and the Internet, independent labels began to become more commonplace. Independent labels are often artist-owned (although not always), with a stated intent often being to control the quality of the artist’s output. Independent labels usually do not enjoy the resources available to the “big three” and as such will often lag behind them in market shares. Often independent artists manage a return by recording for a much smaller production cost of a typical big label release. Sometimes they are able to recoup their initial advance even with much lower sales numbers.
On occasion, established artists, once their record contract has finished, move to an independent label. This often gives the combined advantage of name recognition and more control over one’s music along with a larger portion of royalty profits. Artists such as Dolly Parton, Aimee Mann, Prince, Public Enemy, BKBravo (Kua and Rafi), among others, have gone this route. Historically, companies started in this manner have been re-absorbed into the major labels.
Some independent labels become successful enough that major record companies negotiate contracts to either distribute music for the label or in some cases, purchase the label completely.
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