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Successful, independent bands

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by dystopiate, Sep 24, 2010.


  1. dystopiate

    dystopiate

    Feb 21, 2008
    New York City
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, Aguilar
    I keep hearing how independent bands are at an unprecedented time where they don't need a label to be successful.

    I can only think of an example or two (throughout history) who found success without a label. Can anyone help me out? Who are the new bands, today, that are making it on their own?
     
  2. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    LA
    define success, consistently being able to release records that you are proud of and not losing money every time you go on tour is usually viewed as success
     
  3. are you referring to completely unsigned? or can being on an indie label and/or distro/advertising deals count?
     
  4. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    You don't hear about them because they aren't promoted at the level a label backed band is.

    There are plenty of independent bands making a living without a label. If you follow the CD baby DIY musicians podcast, they interview them all the time.

    Thing is, once band reaches certain size of audiences, there is a mutual attraction with labels : the label wants the pre-existing market, and the band wants the label backed promotion.
     
  5. dystopiate

    dystopiate

    Feb 21, 2008
    New York City
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, Aguilar
    By success I mean successfully doing it as a living. Not a pauper's living, but something where you can pay rent, eat well, take vacations, etc. off of the band alone. Really, a middle class living or better.


    I think I'm referring to a band that is successfully running their own business from the ground up. If they need to partner with someone for improved distro and that partner is only getting a percentage of sales that they facilitate, I think that's still independent. I don't think any sponsors or ad deals they can setup would keep them from being independent.


    Thanks for the link. I'm gonna check that out.

    This also speaks directly to why I asked the question. There seems to be a growing feeling that if a band can get by independently, why would they ever sign with a label that will just wind up cutting deeply into the profits... and that the label won't or can't put enough in enough juice to be worth pairing with (i.e., that the increase in exposure/sales won't make up for the label's cut).
     
  6. dystopiate

    dystopiate

    Feb 21, 2008
    New York City
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, Aguilar
    Any other thoughts?
     
  7. Mooch

    Mooch

    Jan 1, 2009
    MN
    Well since you were looking for bands to begin with. There is a bigger group from our area, they aren't signed to a label but do have distribution and very good booking. But they bust their butts and are doing well for themselves.

    They are called Throw The Fight. Check em out we have done a couple shows with them, they are good guys.
     
  8. TheFantod

    TheFantod #5 of the Pentaverate. Took Col. Sanders' spot.

    Aug 7, 2009
    Eastern N.C.
    Fugazi, NOFX.

    Bad Religion flirted with Atlantic, but it didn't work out and they went back to Epitaph.

    Those are just off the top of my head.
     
  9. dystopiate

    dystopiate

    Feb 21, 2008
    New York City
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, Aguilar
    I checked out Throw the Fight and Ninjaspy. I actually loved Ninjaspy, but I have a whole stack of CDs from bands that don't exist any longer!

    Not that this is the world's greatest or only barometer of a band's independent success, but neither of the bands were generating much action on their social network pages and their myspace spins are extremely low. I'd be hard pressed to believe that they're successful, but I'd love to be shown that I'm wrong.


    It looks like Fugazi is the only truly independent band on that list. I'd be curious to know how successful Fugazi is/were, especially since they did some unusual things... like not selling merch on tour. That blew my mind; I've never had a merch guy who wasn't more than worth paying, so I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around it! Obviously spending power and show admission hasn't paced with inflation and the associated rise in costs (such as fuel), so I wonder if just slashing overhead would be enough for a band these days.



    I'm going to look more into Fugazi, but it's still looking pretty bleak for independent bands so far!
     
  10. There are tons of independent bands out there successful enough for members to earn a middle class living. You just have to build up enough of a fanbase and reputation, tour and play enough live shows, and have a consistent selection of attractive merchandise to sell.
     
  11. dystopiate

    dystopiate

    Feb 21, 2008
    New York City
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, Aguilar
    That's the story I keep hearing on the internet. I've spent a ton of time on the road, been a part of massive social networking campaigns, and been with a few labels. This has not been my experience, or the experience of anyone I've met at any point in the last several years. What I'm hoping for are examples of bands that are independent and successful now, in the new, technologically advanced market.
     
  12. There's a band from Seattle called Maktub that was something of a media darling a few years ago because of the number of CD's they were selling as a non-label independent.
     
  13. Barisaxman

    Barisaxman Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 17, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    No mention of it so far in this thread, but there are a LOT of country artists who got tired of the label (and we're talking mainstream, popular ones) game and simply started their own label to distribute their music. In a way I'd say they are pretty "independent" and do VERY well for themselves. The difference is they probably leaned on a label in the beginning, but after they got big they no longer had to play the label game.
     
  14. Crystal Castles, DeVotchka, and Starf*cker are pretty sucessful. I think that CC and DeVotchka are signed to indie lables though...
     
  15. echoSE7EN

    echoSE7EN

    Jul 1, 2010
    Balto., MD
    Wilco
     
  16. akflyer

    akflyer Supporting Member

    Feb 27, 2008
    Ani Difranco has been very successful as an independant.
     
  17. NielsBass

    NielsBass

    Apr 30, 2010
    Epitaph is actually founded by Bad Religion :)
    Their second singer/guitarist is the label manager and the rest of the band used to work for the label when it was still really small
    (their bassist used to work at Epitaph to answer phonecalls)
    When they sold The Offspring to a big company they got a lot of money from which they became 1 of the biggest indie labels

    The Dillinger Escape plan is quite succesfull without being a part of a big label, and Nine Inch Nails started his own label because he didn't want the record company to steer his music in a certain way
     
  18. dystopiate

    dystopiate

    Feb 21, 2008
    New York City
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, Aguilar
    I actually heard about them just recently through TB. I looked them up, but they don't seem to be up to much of anything any longer. There are lots of reasons for a band to take a break or call it a day, but I can't help but wonder if trying to hack it alone did them in.

    There are bands doing that outside of country as well. While they are interesting as a tale of the times, the impetus for my asking the original question was my curiosity as to whether or not a band can actually do what everyone seems to say is easier than ever -- going it alone from day one. It's also the reason why I don't consider being on an indy label being independent.

    She's an interesting example, and one of the people who pops to mind when I think about being independent and successful. She's also an individual, and so doesn't face the same kind of splits or overhead a band would. I have to wonder if that's a part of what's necessary to be independent.

    Pomplamoose is a name I'd heard before, but never knew much about until recently. They seem to be doing fairly well independently, but, like Ani DiFranco, they aren't a band. Even more interestingly, they don't tour -- they are a true web-only business.
     
  19. crow01

    crow01

    Sep 1, 2008
    chicago
    This is my take for "successful" independent bands in Chicago...I actually don't know any.

    If by successful you mean that at least they are known in the local music community.

    I think the closest to that would be the little kids "School of Rock" band...Packed shows every time
     
  20. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Mar 6, 2021

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