Examining why many signed artists pretend to be independent due to public perception.

For all of the glamour and glitz surrounding the music industry, there is an equal amount of shady politics and deception. The prevalence of the latter is due to the motives of power-hungry individuals who will do whatever it takes to get ahead of the competition. In the past, their actions were usually concealed and the typical music consumer simply enjoyed the final product while remaining unaware of any behind-the-scenes schemes.

Times are different now.

Any type of controversy is exposed to the world within minutes thanks to the Internet/social media and since we’ve learned how undesirable major label record deals can be, the ‘independent artists rise to success’ narrative has grown stronger and stronger. As a result, many labels are now engaging in the practice of signing artists, but not announcing it to the public in order to maintain the charm of their story. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t love to root for the underdog?

The “Mindie” Artist

Revelations in the details of this practice regarding ‘mindie artists’ (coined by the good folks over at DJ Booth) is becoming more commonplace and is bound to gain traction as a hot topic in future months. Due to this, the question will remain for music fans; should you care about the smoke and mirrors behind the fact that your favorite, seemingly independent artist is actually signed?

From Rags to Riches

Navigating this slippery slope boils down to keeping realistic expectations and putting your priorities in order. The rags-to-riches, started-from-the-bottom artistic journey will never get old and its relatable appeal is the main reason why we are so drawn into it. You can fall in love with an artist’s music because of their unique personal background and what it took for them to achieve a strong level of national notoriety. However, once you are invested in someone’s work, it is important to understand that the industry is working around the clock to capitalize off your willingness to support!

The Signs of a Signed Artist

If an artist changes up his/her sound to become more mainstream or radio-friendly and the music video budgets seem higher, don’t be blind to the possibility of them having a label deal in place and most importantly, decide if that matters to you or not. If an artist is able to utilize label resources and the quality of their material progresses it is difficult to point out any harm done by keeping quiet about the business aspects of his/her career. Labels can provide a plethora of opportunities such as media/blog connections, placements on prominent streaming platforms and better live show opportunities, but it is ultimately up to the artist to execute and follow through on those advantages.

The Future

With the industry continuously evolving, it will be interesting to see how the lines continue to blur for artists who may be independent, but have distribution deals in place with labels. It is hard to get mad at an artist for getting their money right without proclaiming an label allegiance to the world, simply because doing so can add unnecessary complications to their career. It is, however, certainly warranted for consumers to look down upon artists who blatantly lie during interviews about their independent status, only to find out a few months later that they’ve purposely misrepresented themselves for the sake of their image.

Should You Care?

We’ve reached a point now where any buzzing artist receives the ‘I wonder if they’re signed treatment’ from their peers, fans, and media alike. Sometimes the answer is staring you in the face; in other cases it’s more carefully hidden. It is inevitable for emerging artists to be questioned regarding their independent status and some will fabricate their independent come-up more than others. That is out of our control. What should you care about? Your decision may differ depending on the personal stake in a certain artist, but what typically matters most is the quality of the music and for it to connect with listeners in an authentic fashion. Signed or unsigned, it is the artistic growth coming from within that will lead to longevity in the music business.
So to the artists: Do what’s best for you without being dishonest to the people who truly appreciate your work.
And to the fans: Understand that every artist isn’t going to be completely forthcoming in terms of airing out their business. Be mindful of that reality and put your support into the music you believe in…the rest will take care of itself.