The days before the creation of the CD became huge, and the internet became accessible to everyone (in theory), being an independent artist was nothing to scoff at. It still isn’t, if you think about it. One of the many purposes of any record label, are to produce, distribute, and protect the musician’s work to an audience. Being signed to a label, again, in theory, ensures that the artist has the major tenants handled, while it is their job to produce sellable content. Even the last sentence is too ‘business’ but it’s the reality for many labels, no matter how many music lovers are staffed. For aspiring artists wanting their work available and noticed in time, being signed can become a nightmare. One of the major reasons artists stay away from major labels (independent) or remain unsigned (free agent), are to keep control of their work and productivity. Famous unsigned artists include notable rock names like Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and Radiohead.
But what is an independent artist in 2017? ‘Independent’ in today’s music scene, is an artist without a major recording contract, and or, remains largely in control of their music with a lesser known, and funded (indie) label.
Here are five independent artists to watch, keeping it between the music and making their way to our ears.
Chance the Rapper (unsigned)
Intro Track: “Juice”
During a YouTube music crawl, eventually the site finds picks that are not only trending, but fits your music tastes. I don’t recall the song I was listening to, but something told me to click a particular thumbnail. Hearing Chance’s dynamic voice open in the style of old-bluesy bar music and segue into a boast of someone hitting mainstream … safe to say it’s addicting.
New Listen: “Blessings” feat. Ty Dolla $ign, Anderson Paak, BJ the Chicago Kid & Raury
Hannah Diamond (PC Music)
Intro Track: “Paradise” feat. Charli XCX
The second track on Charli’s Vroom Vroom EP, the future pop pumps through, as Diamond joins XCX in this mash by producer and label mate Sophie. Together they sing to a robotic yet joyous electronic boom about a special person. Her innocent and child-like voice is a great mesh to Charli’s bold and mature take on this track.
New Listen: “Make Believe”
Julie Byrne (Ba Da Bing! Records)
Intro Track: “Vertical Ray”
A soft longing for something beyond her window, this is a song showcasing Byrne’s poetic ability. Short yet long in emotion and relaxation, she sings about her life and ways about the land around her. Byrne’s voice is a great addition to any playlist for some hushed time alone.
New Listen: “Follow my Voice”
Dawn Richard (Our Dawn Entertainment)
Intro Track: “Tide: The Paradox Effect”Danity Kane fans were heartbroken to hear once again, the group disbanded. Unfortunately it wasn’t too amicable, but those interested in Richard, awaited her next move. After giving a co-ed Total, and EDM sound with Diddy-Dirty Money, a group with P. Diddy and singer Kalenna Harper, Richard remained under the radar until news of solo work. Showcasing her vocals, careful production and a pretty cool visual, Dawn attracted attention for current DK fans on her side, and intrigue with her commanding and ethereal sound.
New Listen: “Renegade”
Moonchild (Tru-Thoughts Records)
Intro Track: “Winter Breeze”
This track is a mix between the soft-keys of early 2000s neo-soul (think Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild or Ms. Badu) and a feel of Corinne Bailey Rae in vocals. The group makes sure to be on Bandcamp and reach out during a Pandora shuffle. Very relaxing and a track to sip something warm to. With a DJ Jazzy Jeff remix (an upgrade of a 2015 release) on Spotify, and sign-offs from noted legends, they’re on the quiet rise.
New Listen: “The Truth” (DJ Jazzy Jeff & James Poyer Remix)
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5 Independent Artists to Watch. Photos courtesy of: Dawn Richard (@DawnRichard), Chance the Rapper (@chancetherapper), Hannah Diamond (@Hannadiamond_), Ba Da Bing! Records, and Tru-Thoughts Records