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The Top 22 of 2021: #6 and #5

Our annual countdown of the people, music, ideas, and news that impacted the year, including

By Paul Marszalek

#6 The Impact of the Independents

MIDiA Research suggests that independent labels are responsible for as much as 43% of all label revenue. If you just looked at radio airplay charts, you’d never know that there was this kind of consumer demand for indie label music.

Unless you were looking at the Triple A Chart. Triple A stands alone among major radio formats where independent labels, long home of the most exciting A&R efforts, can still have success.

In 2021, Secretly Group’s Harlan Kelly managed the biggest indie artist breakthroughs of the year, charting Japanese Breakfast and taking her to a much wider audience. Ellena Osis and the Beggars Group team scored strong artist development chart wins with excellent releases from Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, St. Vincent, and Snail Mail — sure to pay off in the future. Plus, Beggars ended the year with a big hit via Spoon (see #5).

Independent labels even scored #1s: Lori Kampa again crushed it with The Lumineers (with an additional strong chart success from Amos Lee), and Mick Management’s Amy Kaplan guided Brett Dennen to the top of the chart with an album on the Mick Music label — perhaps the indiest of the indies that had chart success this year.

#5 Rock Rules / RCA Records & Concord Music Group

Concord Music Group grabbed 8.5% of all Triple A airplay – good for fourth among labels. RCA took a whopping 13.3% of the Triple A airplay last year – tops among all labels.

How did they do it? Rock bands.

RCA’s Artie Gentile hoovered up airplay year-long with Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters, and Wolf Alice. Over at Concord, Tyson Haller, Angelo Scrobe, and Ayappa Biddanda owned multiple #1s and Top 5s with Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats and The Record Company.

Triple A stations can be wildly different from each other, but the O-negative blood type — the universal donor — is rock music.

(Home page photo, clockwise from left, Lori Kampa, Tyson Haller, Ayappa Biddanda, Angelo Scrobe, Ellena Osis, Artie Gentile, Harlan Kelly, and Amy Kaplan)

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