Though much has changed in the music industry since 1987, the definition of an independent (or indie) record label has not. An indie exists without support from any of the four major music distributors: Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI. Often, an indie relies on an outside distributor such as Redeye or NAIL to get its releases into stores.
Some believe the difference between an indie and a major lies in the motivations of the owners. Big labels want money and lots of it. Indies often are headed up by those with a deep passion for music and few aspirations for the champagne and private-jet lifestyle. Owners of indies work long hours, often start out with little or no pay and can expect to use a stack of CDs as a coffee table.
[…] Sullivan is quick to point out the benefit that digital communication has brought as well. With established networking sites such as MySpace and retail outlets such as CD Baby, small labels or independent artists need very little technical skill to reach fans in distant corners of the globe. Amazon.com has a store devoted to indie labels. ITunes also devotes programming space to independent releases.
Digital access helps indies counterbalance the effects of media consolidation. As the four major music companies become increasingly interconnected with traditional means of exposure such as radio and magazines, getting your music heard becomes increasingly difficult.