Major changes in the music industry throughout the last couple years have meant new challenges facing record labels across the country. While attempting to come up with that next big star, it’s getting harder and harder to break through into mainstream circles.

Mark this time period as an era where the market is flooded with so many artists, albums, songs, and videos that the mass consumer base struggle to agree on those mainstream artists that can headline Coachella, sell out an arena tour, and/or be sent internationally to expand their brands. These are 3 things that record labels will need to solve – or, at the very least, answer to – in order to succeed.

Is an Artist Album Worth it Anymore?

The marketplace has essentially been driven down into smaller forms of content such as YouTube music videos and/or individual songs that can be streamed via any of the available platforms. If you are an entry level artist and do not have the resources to develop an album’s length video, working within that limited budget, it may not make sense any more to flesh out an album for your beginner artists. If one looks at the biggest selling albums of the year, none of them are from entry level artists – all either established names, compilations, or movie soundtracks.

In addition, looking at the more youthful artists such as Justin Bieber and Drake, we are seeing the trend of streams lifting them up into the charts rather than direct purchases and the only part of the record industry that rose last year was vinyl – it might make more sense to save the thousands of dollars in an album production and to put it towards smarter, more contemporary ideas. That said, if a record label has an artist that falls into a category of vinyl that is demonstrating strong sales or if the artist is in want of a full album, taking that jump might be a risk you have to take.

Can an Artist Stand Out in a Streaming Sea of Thousands?

Streaming numbers are continuing to climb as more and more artists have jumped onto different platforms, attempting to reach a growing, mass audience. Indie record labels continue to struggle with getting their artists noticed in this growing body of musicians, and it is only bound to get harder.

If you are an entry level artist, there is a lot that your record label is going to have to do outside of simply putting up a song to stream in order to get you noticed. The only way to succeed in 2017 in the world of streaming is to build the brand outside of these platforms – such as through the release of videos, live performances, and putting creativity to the max in trying to find ways to stand out and get publicity.

Is it Better to Chase the Regional Marketplace or an International One?

Independent record labels are going to have to make the call on what kind of success they are chasing. One does not need to necessarily sacrifice one for the other but chasing international success from the get-go and attempting to appeal to a regional marketplace involve two very different approaches.

Though there is not necessarily right or wrong answers, these three questions are open to be answered by the independent record labels in the coming year. How a record label succeeds in 2017 is going to be dependent on being able to change with the industry, identify where its consumer base is at, and to find those customers that are willing to pay for a download, to come to a show, and to buy into the brand that you are selling.