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  • Writer's pictureAmit Sher

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

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Stay independent or sign a record deal?


  1. Macklemore

  2. Boyce Avenue

  3. Chance the Rapper

  4. Mýa

  5. Frank Ocean

Any music artist will tell you, before the days of online music streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple music, it was seen as the greatest accomplishment by a musician if they were discovered and signed by a record label. Over time however, things have changed in favor of the artist. Musicians have discovered and have come to the realization that a record deal was not the only option for their golden ticket to success as an artist. 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 music artists have taken it upon themselves to produce and promote their own music independently and without the assistance of third party's 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 5 different independent artists who decided to break the norm and eventually managed to flourish and make it in the music industry.

1. Macklemore

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Macklemore performing on stage

Macklemore, 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 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.

Macklemore currently has 4 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)

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 all by staying as 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 ever since.

They decided to sign with Republic Records in 2010 after selling out shows all over the USA. They however, quickly retracted out 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 amount of well known music producers and continue to 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, more commonly known as Chance The Rapper, has become the poster boy for successful independent artists worldwide. He is the first music artist to win a Grammy award without selling any physical copies of his music nor 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 Grammy’s he was awarded was for his 3rd mixtape he released in 2016 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 the 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 dollars. That being said, the talented independent artist and 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, but what you really need is diligence, patience, passion and most importantly self-motivation.

4. Mýa

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R&B- soul singer Mýa

Mýa Marie Harrison 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 multi talented 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 travelled 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

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 of 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 on 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 award for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

After taking a four-year hiatus he re-emerged in the music scene in 2016, and ended up departing ties with Def Jam Records. According to Ocean, "It was like a 'bad marriage’." From this point onwards, Ocean decided to become an independent artist. During this period, he produced his 2nd studio album "Blonde" as an independent artist under his own record label in 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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The reality is that 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 music streaming platforms and social media is easier than ever before to go viral and break through the music industry. That being said, it is not an easy task. No matter what music you produce and who you are as an artist, the ones 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!

Our platform One Submit, helps artists get their music heard and lets artists still 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! Check out our blog on TikTok music promotion

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