Another sign of the times for the changing music industry landscape: according to numbers in the mid-year Billboard SoundScan report (as reported by A2IM), combined sales of units from independent record labels have claimed a record 34.4 percent of market share, more than that of any of the Big Three labels (namely, Warner, Universal and Sony). This figure is based on ownership of the masters, not on distribution channels.
While it’s not necessarily news that indie labels have the collective majority, the numbers themselves are very revealing: market share for indie labels at this time last year were at 32.9 percent. A 1.5 percent increase in market share may not look like much, but when you consider it represents millions of actual units sold, it is far more significant than it appears.
Granted, the indie market is getting a little help from name recognition, which seems almost ironic. Names like Mumford & Sons (who top indie sales so far this year with 1.1 million), Jason Aldean, The Lumineers and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis represent the bulk of market share—not to mention Taylor Swift (yes, she’s actually considered indie).
Another factor to weigh in (and a sign that things are still transitioning in the music industry) is that other numbers are not so good. After a slight bump in overall sales in 2013, album sales in general are down 6% versus this point last year, and for the first time since 2010, mid-year digital downloads are down, according to Billboard. This is mere speculation, but it could be owing to the rise in popularity of streaming services, which would make the current beef between Atoms for Peace and Spotify all the more relevant.