Column: The Post-Label Music Industry Is Here. Here’s How Artists, Businesses and Investors Can Prosper

For decades, artists have had to rely on a music industry plagued with nepotism to reach their audiences.

Since it has not always been necessary to possess real talent in order to become a well-known artist, the industry is fundamentally unequal. Gifted artists looking to pave their way often lose opportunities because they don’t know “the right person.” The opportunities that allow artists to thrive — including shows, music licensing and selling music-related services — aren’t easy to find and are usually shared through word of mouth. Many artists are forced to focus less on music and more on tapping networks of friends, family, and their label to help get their careers started.

But a new day is coming. A myriad of new platforms have been working to level the playing field. Networks have become more accessible in the last 10 years, and the domination of the mediocre but well-connected is coming to an end.

This new milieu has shifted the power away from the seemingly impenetrable record label network and changed how artists create music, connect, find opportunities, promote, release songs and conduct business together.

Marketplaces Everywhere

In the past few years, marketplaces have capitalized on creative disorganization and emerged as a leading force. Publicly-owned companies like Fiverr and Etsy collectively generate billions of dollars per year for their creators and provide opportunity in an otherwise chaotic and zero-sum market. Similar marketplaces are now connecting artists with niche audiences in the music industry.

These platforms offer the exact services record labels used to have a monopoly on: licensing, distribution, production, and more.

This year alone, Splice and Epidemic Sound — two B2B marketplaces for artists to sell snippets of sound and finished songs to other musicians, businesses, and video content creators — have collectively raised $500 million to provide a new way for artists to reach and monetize audiences.

Music marketplaces like these provide a healthy competitive ecosystem that can provide musicians with access to whole new revenue streams and give businesses more options at a lower cost. It’s a win-win scenario in most situations.

This democratization of services enables artists to access new growth levers without the binds of record labels. They can find their own audiences and clients through marketplaces geared towards facilitating business between buyers and sellers.

In other words, instead of traditional cold emailing and reaching out on social media to connect with new people, sellers choose a marketplace that finds a lot of leads for them. They are able to track their clients, find new customers, communicate, deal with disputes, and charge all on a platform for usually a small percentage of each sale.

For instance, music industry service companies — including Melody Nest, which I founded — are emerging with a focus on connecting artists, marketing businesses, and video content creators looking to create custom music and license songs from a selection of vetted professionals.

New Opportunities for Artists

Musicians persevere in the industry because they want a life that’s not attached to a “normal” 9-5 job, and the new spate of marketplaces have helped make this a reality by giving artists the freedom to work independently, as well as access to professional organizational tools and business leads.

These platforms have changed how connections are made, giving talented musicians access to millions of potential leads and real opportunity as soon as they sign up. Artists can now grow their own network.

Camilo Silva, professional audio engineer and Melody Nest member says these freelance marketplaces “not only help people like me generate new leads and access new, interesting markets but they also bring us different music styles from all over the world, keeping the fun factor high.”

The current rise of B2B marketplaces is just beginning, and the next decade will shape the music industry… whether it’s ready or not.