Millions of talented artists dream of building a career in music. The music industry is oversaturated with talent and even if an artist gets signed to a major label, there is no guarantee their album will be released or it will sell. Few have the knowledge, guts and ambition to strive to make it on their own without business guidance or financing.
Even those that begin their journey as independent artists, get quickly disillusioned because they were not aware of how much work it would take and how hard it would be. As with any other career music is a business, and when you are running the show you have to work even harder.
There are independent artists that are beating the odds everyday. Unlike artists signed to a major label, their time and money is their own. Major labels have attempted to sign some of the independent recording artists that made this list, but these performers would not want to operate their business any other way.
These artists have sacrificed for years to be right were they are today. Some were previously dropped from major labels, or split up with their group over differences in creative direction. Whether they paid their dues by writing and releasing songs for other artists, or working other jobs to finance their dreams, they each deserve recognition.
Being an independent artist does not have to equate to being starving artist. There are successful artists from around the globe that have secured a fan base and worked their business plan until they got results that worked for them. In this case, the result is getting as many people to hear their music as possible and being able to live comfortably on their earnings.
Here are 8 independent recording artists that are highly paid for doing what they love to do:
8 8 - David Styles “Styles P” - $3 Million
New York Rapper Styles P is formerly of The Lox and Ruff Riders. He has a reported net worth of $3 million. Styles P has continued to release albums and mix tapes and is also the founder of D-Block Records. The Lox was formerly signed to write songs for Bad Boy records and wrote hits including “It’s All About The Benjamins” for P Diddy, and “Honey” for Mariah Carey. Styles P is also a Random House author and co-owns a juice bar.
7 7 - Atmosphere - $3.8 Million
Minnesota hip hop group Atmosphere is worth a reported $3.8 Million. The group consists of rapper Slug (Sean Daley) and DJ Ant (Anthony Davis). The group has released 6 studio albums. Slug has appeared on albums by KRS ONE, Jean Grae, Aesop Rock, DOOM and many others. Besides album sales, the group reportedly makes their profits from extensive touring.
6 6 -Donald Glover “Childish Gambino” - $4.5 Million
Childish Gambino is reportedly worth an estimated $4.5 million. The rapper also performs under his given name, Donald Glover, acting on the TV show ‘Community’. He also won awards while writing for the hit show ’30 Rock’. Childish Gambino has released a number of mix tapes and recorded songs with major artists including J. Cole and Gucci Mane.
5 5 - Malcolm James McCormick “Mac Miller” - $6 Million
Pittsburg rapper Mac Miller is reportedly worth an estimated $6. The 22-year-old recording artist released an independent album before signing with an independent label and releasing a series of mixtapes. Miller is still able to keep a significant amount of his earnings, which would be impossible at a major label. The rapper reportedly has a Mountain Dew endorsement deal and he has was featured on the 2012 Forbes list of Top 20 Earning Hip Hop Artists. Mac Miller has worked with Wiz Khalifa, Jay Electronica, DJ Jazzy Jeff and is reportedly releasing a collaboration EP with Pharrell Williams this year.
4 4 - Aaron Dontez Yates “Tech N9NE” - $8 Million
Mid West rapper and co-founder of the Strange Music label, Tech N9NE, has an estimated net worth of $8 million. He has reportedly sold over 2 million albums and had song placements in films, on television and on video games. He made Forbes list of Top 20 Earning Hip Hop Artists in 2012. According to Forbes, Tech N9NE’s label is generating $20 million annually. Tech N9NE was previously in several groups, including Black Mafia and Nnutthowze until they were dropped from their label.
3 3 - Early Stevens aka “E-40” - $8 Million
West Coast Rapper and entrepreneur E-40 is worth an estimated $8 Million. Member of the rap group The Click and founder of Sick Wid It Records, E-40 made underground music that caught the attention of the mainstream. He has been featured on songs by major label recording artists and features major label recording artists on his albums. To date, he has released over 20 studio albums. E-40 is also an investor and serial entrepreneur, at one point owning a Fatburger franchise, Wingstop franchise, launching an energy drink and opening a nightclub. He has also acted on television and in films.
2 2 - Ben Haggerty “Macklemore” - $16 Million
Seattle rapper Macklemore took over the '56th Annual Grammy Awards' with producer Ryan Lewis. The duo had six Grammy nominations and had songs on the top of the charts from their independently released album. Macklemore has an estimated net worth of $16 million. The duo has performed on 'The Ellen Degeneres Show', The Grammy’s and on 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon'. They were featured on Music Choice as “emerging artists." Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were on tour throughout 2013 and have been featured in major magazines, including a mention in Rolling Stone.
1 1 - “Ray J” Norwood- $18 Million
Actor, R&B singer and reality TV personality Ray J is has an estimated net worth of $18 million. Like his sister, Brandy Norwood, Ray J has been in the entertainment business since he was a child. His acting credits include ‘The Sinbad Show’, ‘Moesha’ and 'One on One'. He has also starred on VH1 Reality series ‘For the Love of Ray J. Ray J is currently working on his 5th studio album. Formerly dropped from Elecktra Records, he now releases music under his own label, Knockout Entertainment. Ray J is also the host of Oxygen’s 'Bad Girls All-Star Battle'.