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  • Writer's pictureAmit Sher

5 Famous Independent Artists Who Made It Big All On Their Own

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5 Independent artists who made it big on their own:

Macklemore, Boyce Avenue, Chance the Rapper, Mýa and Frank Ocean.

Any music artist will tell you, before the days of online music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple music, it was seen as the greatest accomplishment by a musician if they were discovered and signed a major label deal. Over time, however, things have changed in favor of the artist. Musicians have discovered and come to the realization that a record deal is not the only option for their golden ticket to success as artists. The rewards and benefits they were promised did not, unfortunately, live up to the hype of what they expected.

In the current modern age of music, many indie artists and independent musicians have taken it upon themselves to produce and promote their own music independently and without the assistance of third parties such as record labels. DIY artists are blooming these days and the hype is getting bigger by the day.

Listed below are the success stories of five of the most successful independent artists. who decided to break the norm and eventually managed to promote their independent acts and flourish and make it in the music industry.

1. Macklemore

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Macklemore performing on stage

Macklemore is one of the most successful independent artist in the world.

His success story is an inspiration for every artist. Naklemore, a native to Seattle in the United States, became a name buzzing sensation in 2013. The independent artist first began producing music over 20 years ago, and released his first EP in 2000, when he was a teenager.

Benjamin Hammond Haggerty, AKA Macklemore, and his business partner Ryan Lewis, released their Grammy Award-winning track, "Thrift Shop." which is a song from their album titled "The Heist,". Their track "Thrift Shop" went platinum and was recognized by Billboard music magazine as the first ever rap song to go #1 on the Billboard Top 100 chart without the support and backing of a major record label. The music video to this track has reached over 1.7 Billion views to this day (yes, with a B), and his album 'The Heist' sold over 78,000 copies in the first week of its release.

Macklemore, however, did acquire minimal support from the Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), the independent brother of Warner Music Group.

One of the most significant milestones for Macklemore's debut album was its success at the Grammy Awards. The album secured several Grammy wins, including Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance, and Best Rap Song. These wins not only validated Macklemore's unique style but also solidified his position as a prominent figure in the music industry. Maklemore gained a commercial success with his own independent label and has four Grammy awards to his name. This really is a clear indication to any independent artist out there, that making it big in the music industry is definitely possible without the backing of any major labels.

2. Boyce Avenue

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The 3 Manzano brothers (Boyce Avenue)

The 3 Manzano brothers (Boyce Avenue)

Boyce Avenue is one of YouTube’s most-followed bands. From sold-out European tours, studio time with world renown musicians and over $4 million in yearly revenue, Boyce Avenue managed to beat the odds and achieve all of this by staying an independent band.

In 2007, The Manzano brothers (Boyce Avenue) recorded their first ever YouTube cover in their parents garage and have never looked back since.

They decided to sign with Republic Records in 2010 after selling out shows all over the USA. They, however, quickly retracted from their record deal in 2011 after becoming concerned that their record labels moved too slowly to cater to their fan base. They initially believed that they would be able to grow their music career even more with the backing of a label, but were disappointed with the reality of what the major label provided.

For very similar reasons, Boyce Avenue resisted monetizing their YouTube channel, which currently has over 16.1 million subscribers. They believed YouTube advertisements negatively impacted their search results and traffic, which is a major component in driving ticket sales, music streams, and merchandise sales.

The band earned enough revenue while staying independent by selling directly to their fan base. They managed to build and establish their own music studio, in which they now use to produce and record their new music. By doing this, the band managed to publish their content at a much faster rate, which dramatically boosted their exposure and music career growth.

To this day, they are still independent and continue to produce music videos, work with a vast number of well known music producers, and sell out shows all over the world.

3. Chance the Rapper

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Chance the Rapper doing what he does best

Chancellor Johnathan Bennett

An independent rapper, more commonly known as Chance The Rapper, has become the poster boy for success worldwide. He is the first music artist to win a Grammy without selling any physical copies of his music or selling much of his music at all.

The talented American rapper has received numerous music awards and accolades, including three Grammy Awards. One of the Grammys he was awarded was for his third mixtape he released in 2016 with his own songs, called ‘Coloring Book’, in which he won the best rap album award. His 13-song mixtape was streamed over 57 million times in its debut week and became the first streaming-only album to debut on Billboard’s music charts (No: 8).

He has many other awards to his name, such as winning two BET Hip Hop Awards, three BET Awards, a Soul Train Music Award, and two iHeartRadio Music Awards.

Chance has declined multiple record deals over time that are worth up to approximately $10 million. That being said, the talented independent artist and record producer has overcome the odds and has proved to the world of music that you do not need a record label to succeed in the music industry; what you really need is diligence, patience, passion, and most importantly, self-motivation.

4. Mýa

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R&B- soul singer Mýa

R&B Soul Singer Mýa

Mýa Marie Harrison, independent musician, singer, songwriter, dancer, actress, and philanthropist.

She was first signed in 1996 to the record label Interscope Records and became a huge success in the 2000s era. As her music career progressed, the R&B-Soul singer wanted to become independent so badly that she decided to establish her own record label. She managed to do this in the same time frame in which she was recording two of her albums between 2008 and 2011.

The multitalented American singer, songwriter, and actress created 13 successful studio projects at her own record label, Planet 9. She even won a Grammy award in 2002 and earned a Grammy nomination in 2017, for her 7th studio album 'Smoove Jones'.

According to an interview with The Culture, Harrison states that the biggest shock about going independent was the fact that she traveled to more parts of the world during her independent career, than she did when she was a signed artist at a major record label. As an independent artist, she toured Japan for the first time, and she even stated that she had never been to Australia when she was signed, even though she had number one hits there.

She has sold just over an astonishing 3.2 million albums in the United States and over 7 million albums in total worldwide.

5. Frank Ocean

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The indie music sensation Frank Ocean

The indie music sensation Frank Ocean

Christopher Edwin Breaux adopted the name Frank Ocean after moving to Los Angeles to pursue his music career. The talented singer, songwriter, and rapper first started out as a ghostwriter for tracks by world renown artists such as Justin Bieber and John Legend. He began to make a name for himself during this period, and from there, in 2009, he joined the hip-hop group "Odd Future" and later signed with Def Jam Records.

In 2012 he released his popular album "Channel Orange," which topped the Billboard Hip Hop charts. He eventually won a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

After taking a four-year hiatus, he re-emerged in the music scene in 2016, and ended up cutting ties with Def Jam Records. According to Ocean, "It was like a 'bad marriage’." From this point on, Ocean decided to become an independent artist. During this period, he produced his second studio album, "Blonde" as an independent artist under his own record label, which he founded. Within the first week of becoming independent, "Blonde" hit the #1 spot on the Billboard 100, which led to Ocean receiving over $1 million in profits.

Since then, he has been a role model for independent artists worldwide and an inspiration for up and coming artists who aspire to make it on their own in the music industry.

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Final Words

The reality is that indie musicians signing a record deal with a major label is not the be all and end all of the music industry. In today's era of streaming platforms and social media, it is easier than ever before to go viral, manage your own creative control, and break through the music industry. That being said, it is not an easy task. One hit single can lift you to new heights, but you'll need to keep going and be persistent. No matter what music you produce or who you are as an artist, those who have determination, passion, diligence, and motivation to succeed will succeed! It is all a matter of constantly improving and persisting as a musician.

Get out there and show the world your talent as an indie artist!

Get out there and show the world your talent as an indie artist!

Our platform, One Submit, helps artists get their music heard and lets them keep all the rights to themselves. To get your music on playlists, music blogs, radio stations, channels, or labels, submit your music to us to start your promotional campaign.

Good luck!

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1 Comment

Indie Radio Network
Indie Radio Network
Dec 13, 2022

It is true that some artists make off better on their own without a record deal, but some don't. The other thing is, that most labels now want to sign artists to exclusive deals, but unless you have management or PR to push your songs, unfortunately your music won't go anywhere. One issue is that because there aren't many A&R positions like years ago, most deals made by a major label deal are distribution deals and most don't include promotion.

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