The Music Industry: Indie vs. Mainstream

Hello everyone, it’s me R.S. Noel with another post. For today’s topic, I’ll be cross-examining the differences and similarities between the mainstream music industry and the indie music industry. There are actually quite some similarities in terms of popularity and goals for each artist(s). But to begin, let’s talk about the differences of the two music industries.

I’ll be stating the obvious from the get-go. Budgeting limits for mainstream artist is much better than it is for indies. It’s shocking how astronomical the difference is. Undoubtedly, it leaves little to the imagination as to why certain artists are in our lives. They’re continuously being fed down our throats.

It comes down to budgeting. Budgeting controls just how much radio, T.V., and Internet exposure one artist or band gets in comparison to their peers in the industry. If you belong to the mainstream music industry, then you’ll hardly ever find any need to complain about budgeting. But if you’re part of the indie part of the industry, then you understand just how unfair it all is. In the end though, you can only try and get more exposure by actively making the right connections with the right business/marketing people. And even then, this can be quite narrow and difficult, due to the fact that business/marketing personnel already have quite a heavy workload on their plate from the mainstream artists and their managing teams.

Now for one of their similarities.

Both indie and mainstream artists/bands are nothing without streaming services. In recent years, services like Spotify or iTunes have seen the rise of many independent artists. Not to mention social media has impacted the music industry like never before. With apps like and Dubsmash, and not to mention the mainstays like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. connected artists with their fans in a whole new way.

An amazing story that I just discovered recently, thanks to a fellow blogger here (and also with a little research); is the story behind Chance The Rapper.

His legacy began like so many of the artists we know and love today. He was an indie artist who had gained quite a following after he released his second mixtape (for free download) titled Acid Rap; Chance the Rapper got plenty of attention and reached relative fame due to Acid Rap. Undoubtedly, after Acid Rain, Chance came out with a handful of mixtapes and singles soon thereafter. He gained countless fans, and pretty soon, he steadily grew larger and larger with each mixtape/single he came out with. In fact, he grew so big, that he was beginning to get offered record deals from many big record labels.

But you know what the most surprising part of it all is? He didn’t even accept those record deals in the very beginning.

Instead, he kept to his indie roots. And even then, he was still growing in popularity; especially with his third mixtape released titled Coloring Book. But with Coloring Book, Chance’s career would be catapulted into the spotlight of the mainstream music industry forever. But what many people don’t know, is that Chance The Rapper had signed with Apple Music to make his third mixtape exclusively available to Apple‘s music streaming service. This was a very career-driven move, and some have even said Chance is no longer an indie artist. In some way I can understand where this kind of sentiment comes from, but on the other hand, Chance The Rapper decided to finally sign with a big label (in terms of tech companies as well) in order to get noticed worldwide.

You have to understand, Chance has been doing this since 2012. He’s been doing this for 5 full years! (since his debut mixtape came out May 16th, 2012). You seriously can’t sit here and tell any artist or even human being, that the move he took to make his career a staple in the music industry was in order to have stability. You have to remember, there are countless other artists out there trying to vie for the same spotlight; and for a man like Chance The Rapper, how could anyone expect anything less from him? He put in his time after all, and you can’t take that away from him.

I could go on and on about justifying what Chance The Rapper did in terms of “signing a deal with the devil”, but I won’t since I know I could go further off the main topic of this article.

Back to the differences between the mainstream music industry and the indie-music industry, one could easily see that indie artists often drop-off from the industry after a certain amount of time has passed for them. They’re likely discouraged by the harsh and cut-throat environment of the industry. Remember, this is a business after all. Certainly, those who are more naturally-inclined to be more weary of business-matters are the artists/bands who are the most likely to eventually break-up or leave the industry all-together.

But even then, it’s amazing to see an indie-artist-by-heart like Chance The Rapper has tried his best to remain as independent as possible.

Another similarity between indie artist and those in the mainstream are that they enjoy having creative freedom for themselves just as much as any other artist. No matter how much money a recording artist has, they are just as equally to be sensitive on topics of alteration to their original works of music. I’ve seen a handful of stories over the years on how irate some “A-List” singers have been. They’ve usually just cut out entire deals out altogether just in order to make a point about their relative freedom to their music.

I suppose that should end today’s blog post. There are certainly still some more similarities and differences between the two, but I don’t want to drag this article on even more than I have already. So with that stated, I’ll just leave you all today with this one last quote that I find very interesting and relative in these dark times.

“When life knocks you down, roll over and look at the stars.” ~ Unknown 


Forever in Your Debt,

R.S. Noel

2 thoughts on “The Music Industry: Indie vs. Mainstream

    1. I agree as well, it’s only natural for some indie artist to want to eventually go big. If they love music that music, I’d definitely still be a fan even after singing with a big label.

      Liked by 1 person

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