As Major Label Market Share Falls on Spotify, Can we Expet even More Indie Investment from The ‘Big Three’?

The major record labels, including Universal Music, Sony Music, and Warner Music, are losing market share on Spotify, according to recent reports. Spotify’s latest annual investor report revealed that the combined market share of the major labels and Merlin, a global digital rights agency for independent labels, decreased from 87% in 2017 to 75% in 2022. This decline can be attributed to the rise of independent and DIY artists who are increasingly self-releasing their music on streaming platforms.

The growth of the independent artist sector has been fueled by the accessibility and affordability of digital distribution and marketing tools, which allow artists to release and promote their music without the need for a traditional record label. As a result, many artists are opting for independent routes instead of signing with major labels, as they seek to retain ownership of their copyrights and have more control over their careers.

In response to this trend, the major labels have been investing in independent artist-friendly alternatives to their traditional labels, such as label services operations. These operations, including Universal Music’s Virgin Music Group, Sony Music’s The Orchard and AWAL, and Warner Music’s Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA) and Level Music, provide distribution, marketing, and other services to independent artists while allowing them to retain ownership of their music. These label services operations have grown in market share and strategic importance for the major labels, as they seek to maintain their presence in the changing music industry landscape.

One example of the success of label services operations is Sony Music’s The Orchard, which has reportedly doubled its market share in the United States from 2019 to 2023. Other major labels have also been focusing on their label services operations to attract independent artists and maintain their streaming market share. As the music industry continues to evolve, it is expected that major labels will increasingly rely on these alternative models to stay relevant and adapt to the changing needs and preferences of artists and consumers alike.