Record Labels

Independent Artists Claimed the Majority of This Year's Grammy Awards

Brittany Howard
Jordan Strauss/AP/Shutterstock

Brittany Howard poses on the press line at the 63rd Grammy Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center on March 14, 2021 in Los Angeles.

At the 2021 ceremony, 52% of winners were independent artists — up from 38% last year.

While Beyonce and Taylor Swift made history and Harry Styles' many colorful boas made headlines at Sunday's 63rd annual Grammy Awards ceremony, when all was said and done it was independent artists who really won out with a majority of the day's awards overall.

Independents comprised 52% of winners, defined by being on a label that is at least 51% independently owned, according to the American Association of Independent Music.

Fourteen independent labels that report to A2IM won across 19 categories. Among them were best new artist Megan Thee Stallion, who is signed with 300 Entertainment; ATO Records' Brittany Howard, who won best rock song for "Stay High"; and best progressive R&B album recipient Thundercat, who won for It Is What It Is, released on Ninja Tune's Brainfeeder.

The percentage of independent Grammy winners is up from the past three years. At last year's awards, 38% of winners were independent, and at the 2019 ceremony just 36.9% of winners were independent. At the 2018 ceremony, 42.8% of winners were independent artists.

“Thanks to the democratizing and diversifying effects of unlimited shelf space, reduced friction to listening to new, unfamiliar, and even obscure artists, the loosening of restrictive advertising driven genres, and the diminishing dominance of huge marketing spends brought about by algorithmic discovery, each year, independent music has grown to make up an increasingly larger portion of the global music market," says A2IM president and CEO, Richard James Burgess.

It's a silver lining following a particularly rough year for independent artists, 30% of whom reported being more worried about finances as a result of the pandemic, according to a September 2020 study from MiDIA Research. As Burgess says: "A2IM is delighted to see this increased accessibility to and familiarity with independent recording artists reflected in this year’s Grammy voters choices."

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