Landed four independent albums in the top three of the Billboard 200, including No. 1s by Vampire Weekend and Queens of the Stone Age
Tropical Storm Adele made Martin Mills’ Beggars Group an undeniable force in 2012, but in 2013 the collective of venerable independent labels (including XL, 4AD, Matador and Rough Trade) proved it was never a one-trick pony. Beggars’ labels placed four albums in the top three of the Billboard 200 last year, with two of them—Vampire Weekend’s "Modern Vampires of the City" (XL) and Queens of the Stone Age’s ". . . Like Clockwork" (Matador)—reaching No. 1.
Mills, Billboard’s 2013 Industry Icon honoree and a label owner since 1977, is regarded as an elder statesman of the indie-label community at large. His leadership reverberates among peers and competitors alike.
“I’ve been surprised over the years to see some executives say streaming won’t be used as a substitute for sales, when of course it’s bound to, to a certain extent, just as indeed it will encourage sales to a different extent,” Mills says. “There are ways people will listen to and pay for music that we still haven’t nailed down yet. The challenge is to intuit shifts and try to stay on top of them.”
Mills, an investor in the Rough Trade Retail Group, played an advisory role in the storied London retailer’s ambitious and closely watched expansion to the United States with a 15,000-square-foot mega-store and concert venue that launched in November.
“I see independent retail growing stronger and stronger,” Mills says. “Historically, the mid-market merchants like Best Buy and HMV and Tower made life difficult for independents. But now that they’re largely not there, there’s a really big and bright future for independent record stores.”