In June of 2020, the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) partnered with Billboard to expand the parameters for the Top Independent Albums chart, allowing more independently-owned labels to appear on the ranking. Now A2IM is congratulating some of the first independent artists and labels to top the chart, honoring them with the A2IM Independent #1 Award.
Recipients of the A2IM Independent #1 Award include Bad Bunny (YHLQMDLG; Rimas), Brandy (b7; Brand Nu Ent./eOne), Eslabon Armado (Vibras de Noche; Del Records), Morgan Wallen (If I Know Me; Big Loud Records), and Young Dolph (Rich Slave; Paper Route EMPIRE).
Starting with the Billboard chart dated July 18, all independently-owned labels that control their masters, including those that are distributed through a major label group (Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, or Warner Music Group), are eligible to chart on the Top Independent Albums chart. This was a shift from previous chart parameters which only allowed labels distributed independently or through the indie arm of a major record group to be eligible.
The partnership between A2IM and Billboard for the Top Independent Albums chart brought together the top independent music organization with the world’s leading entertainment media brand. The A2IM Independent #1 Award recognizes independent artists and labels whose creativity and hard work has lifted them to the pinnacle of the chart.
Produced by A2IM, the Independent #1 Award is now available to honor all past and future Top Independent Albums chart-toppers. The Award is a solid acrylic block which honors the history of recorded sound with an embedded gold foil representation of the waveform that Edison claimed was the first recording that could be played back: Edison himself performing “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
“Putting together and working with an independent team to market and release my album has proven to be successful in so many ways, even in this climate of uncertainty,” said Brandy of receiving the award. “I’m proud to be an independent artist!”
Award recipients Armado and Young Dolph also expressed their thoughts at topping the chart.
“We feel blessed for all the opportunities," said Armado, "and we're thankful to our fans and our record label, Del Records, for believing in our project.”
"With hard work anything is possible,” said Young Dolph. “Never say never. I couldn’t do none of it without my team.”
A2IM is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit trade organization headquartered in New York City that exists to support and strengthen the independent recorded music sector. Membership currently includes a broad coalition of more than 700 Independently-owned American music labels. A2IM represents these independently owned small and medium-sized enterprises' (SMEs) interests in the marketplace, in the media, on Capitol Hill, and as part of the global music community. In doing so, it supports a key segment of America's creative class that represents America's diverse musical cultural heritage. Billboard Magazine identified the Independent music label sector as 37.32 percent of the music industry's U.S. recorded music sales market in 2016 based on copyright ownership, making Independent labels collectively the largest music industry sector.