The radio is a great resource.
It allows us to listen to music and discover new artists that we’ve never heard of. Long drives that would otherwise be boring are made fun thanks to artists like Shawn Mendes or Charlie Puth coming up on our FMs. Radio stations are amazing, but have you ever noticed how there are only about 15 musicians in a rotation at a time? Well, there’s a reason for that.
More often than not, the artists that come across our transmissions are signed to a major record label, such as RCA or Interscope. In the music industry, these companies have all the power. With their resources, they can take musicians from having no success to being a Top 40 star. These labels push certain songs and artists to radio stations in order to overexpose the audience to their musicians. While this gives some performers greater odds of success, it subsequently hurts the odds of independent musicians.
Independent artists are musicians who are signed to either a smaller label that doesn’t have the resources that a larger label might, or is just completely solo, without the help of any label. These men and women depend on their fans to fuel their careers, banking on sold out shows and merch sales after the concert.
What I love about independent artists isn’t necessarily the music itself (although some of it is extraordinary), but rather the drive these musicians have. They spend years living on breadcrumbs, playing shows for 15-30 people in anticipation for their big break. Most have also dealt with many struggles in their life, such as family problems, drug addictions, legal troubles, or other life changing tragedies. For them, music is what eventually saved their lives.
Now that you know these self-driven artists exist, I’m here to give them some free exposure. That way, they’ll gain some new fans, and readers out there might discover your new favorite band. I’m not saying you have to check these artists out, but I will leave you with this; a lot of the musicians I’m about to mention have made me who I am today. They’re the reason why music runs through my blood. With that being said, let’s get into it.
My parents played a major role in introducing me to independent music, specifically in the genre of country. From an early age, I was exposed to artists such as Jason Boland and Mike McClure. Their form of indie country was a lot more laidback, emphasizing on writing relaxing ballads and traditional country tunes. Many of their songs focus on hometown nostalgia and general life problems. Those two, along with many others, served as my starting point with independent music.
Once I reached high school, I discovered more indie country on my own. It was at this time that I discovered Ruston Kelly. For those who might be unfamiliar, he’s the husband of Grammy-winning artist Kacey Musgraves. Whereas she is a major label musician, signed with MCA Records, Ruston is primarily independent. His latest album, titled “Dying Star,” talks about his early years as an artist. During this time, he constantly struggled with depression and frequently turned to pills to fix his problems. His self-destructive tendencies were ruining him, and without Kacey or his passion for music, Ruston would potentially be dead by now. That’s part of the reason why I adore this album.
I don’t want to take up your entire day looking up artists, so here’s one last recommendation. The Maine, an emo rock band from Tempe, Arizona, is one of my favorite independent groups of all time. These guys are constantly working hard and giving it their all in order to give their fans the best music possible. Many of their songs are existential, singing about life and all of its unknowns. This is a group that won’t fit into everyone’s niche, but if you are looking for some modern day rockstars, these are the guys you want to be supporting.
Independent artists are some of the hardest working men and women in the music industry. When talking about his band, Mike McClure once considered them to be, “Half as popular, twice as loud.” Honestly, I think that’s a great way to summarize independent music as a whole. While they may not have any top 40 hits or sold out arena shows, these musicians put their heart and soul into their art, crafting some of the most genuine songs of the 21st century.
The irony behind this entire article is that I’ve written it while listening to Taylor Swift. Look, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with jamming to Migos, Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons, or whatever mainstream artist you may love. However, the next time you find an interesting independent musician, give them a try. For all you know, they could end up becoming your new favorite artist. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to fueling my T-Swizzle addiction.