Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, whose sophomore self-titled album on the Jagjaguwar label, biting one of his two 2012 Grammy awards won for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album. (Getty)
Led by Bon Iver's two Grammy wins, the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) yesterday sent out a release saying independent labels won 34 trophies, including the categories Best New Artist, Best Country Song, and Best Album awards in ten categories at this weekend's 54th annual Grammy awards.
The independent label organization said the percentage of indie labels increased over last year with wins by Big Machine (Taylor Swift's label), Concord Music Group (Chick Corea) and Rounder Records (Alison Krauss).
The Grammys big winner, Adele, who won six awards was excluded from the indie tally as she is licensed to and marketed by Columbia in the U.S. though she is signed to indie Beggars/XL in the U.K.,
A2IM points out that this marks the fourth consecutive year an artist signed to an indie label has won Album of the Year, following 2011's winner Arcade Fire's 'The Suburbs', 2010's winner Taylor Swift's 'Fearless' (Big Machine), and 2009's winner Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' 'Raising Sand' (Rounder).
Bon Iver's Best New Artist award follows Esperanza Spalding in 2011. Other indie winners include Best Pop Instrumental Album for Booker T. Jones' "The Road From Memphis," (Anti-) Best Alternative Album for Bon Iver's self-titled recording (Jagjaguwar), and two awards for Taylor Swift and Alison Krauss & Union Station. A2IM also said 2011 is the second year in a row independent labels and artists led industry nominations with over 50% for a total of 194 of the 387 possible nominations.
Some, however, have pointed out that with the same distribution networks, manufacturing plants, artist contracts and publicity teams as major labels, some independent labels are all but indistinguishable from their major label counterparts and can be difficult to identify. And this difficulty differentiating can be a two way street.
In a Billboard.biz story from last summer, Billboard's Ed Christman wrote  that "Over the last 15 years, things have only gotten even murkier. Majors used to just buy indies; nowadays, they also invest in indies; and they even do joint ventures with indies-sometimes on an album-by-album basis. Going the other way, majors like RCA have also put artists like Ray LaMontagne through RED. In fact, there are so many permutations of indie/major collaborations and secret deals concerning those permutations that it's sometimes hard to tell what's still indie and what's a major."