Across every genre, these are the executives at labels and distributors driving the success of the independent music industry, commanding nearly one-quarter of the U.S. recorded-music market.
Co-directors, Redwing Records
In early May, one album by a veteran artist now signed to her own independent label topped three Billboard charts and landed within the top 10 on three other tallies in its debut week.
Bonnie Raitt, who began her career in the 1970s on Warner Bros. Records and reached superstardom in the 1990s on Capitol Records, has recorded for the past decade on her own Redwing Records.
Indie status has worked well for Raitt. Her latest album, Just Like That… arrived at No. 1 on Top Current Album Sales, Americana/Folk Albums and Blues Albums; No. 2 on Top Album Sales; No. 6 on Top Rock Albums; and No. 7 on Independent Albums. (Redwing has partnered with Sub Pop for U.S. physical distribution and ADA Worldwide for global digital and physical distribution outside the United States.)
Raitt’s latest wave of acclaim — including raves from The New York Times, NPR’s Fresh Air and The Wall Street Journal, as well as an attention-grabbing Spotify billboard in Times Square — included her receiving the Icon Award at Billboard’s 2022 Women in Music event in March.
When she was recognized, Raitt gave a shoutout to fellow female artists and musical mentors, plus praised the “mighty core” of women in her organization to whom she was “extremely indebted,” including Redwing Records co-directors Kathy Kane and Annie Heller-Gutwillig.
Raitt, Kane and Heller-Gutwillig are among those honored in this report on Billboard’s 2022 Indie Power Players, including executives at more than 90 companies who have contributed to the success of the independent music sector. All of the honorees were chosen by our editors from among nominations by their companies, industry peers or the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM).
A2IM, which is Billboard’s partner in the Top Independent Albums chart, will present its annual Indie Week conference June 13-16 as a hybrid event, both online and in person, and conclude on its final day with the first live Libera Awards since 2019.
Included among our Indie Power Players are executives from labels and distributors that account for 23.5% of the recorded-music market in the United States, according to 2021 year-end data from Luminate. For this report, record companies are defined as independent by their ownership through entities other than the three major music groups. Distributors, regardless of their corporate ownership, qualify as independent through the repertoire they market.
Aside from Raitt’s mighty core at Redwing Records, our Indie Power Players are behind some of the year’s biggest success stories: executives from Roc Nation and Dreamville for J. Cole, from Rimas Entertainment and The Orchard for Bad Bunny, from BIGHIT MUSIC for BTS and Tomorrow X Together, from Disney Music Group for Encanto (featuring the endearing character Mirabel Madrigal), from Big Machine Label Group for Carly Pearce and from many others.
And as Raitt’s high media profile has shown, indie status is no obstacle to mainstream attention. Just ask Japanese Breakfast founder-frontwoman Michelle Zauner, who is signed to the Dead Oceans label (part of Secretly Group), fresh from her acclaimed May 22 performance on Saturday Night Live.
Lloyd Hummel, executive vp of global commercial strategy at Ingrooves Music Group, the independent distributor owned by Universal Music Group, puts it succinctly: “The independent music sector,” he says, “is thriving in every genre imaginable.”