5 Biggest Independent Artists Breaking into the Commercial Scene

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Biggest Independent Artists

One of the most critical debates among indie fans in the 80s and even perhaps in the 90s was whether an artist should live “righteously” or sell out.  In this piece, we will be talking about 5 of the biggest independent artists and how they are making in road into the commercial scene. An artist whose music is used in commercial advertisements was regarded as a sell out or, to a lesser extent, a betrayal of the code. However, many artists have navigated the commercial scene without repercussions from their fans in the last decade.

The age of social media channels like TikTok means that an independent artist can be discovered easily without resorting to cold-emailing record labels. Similarly, some artists become internet sensations due to the distribution of their songs by the brands they partner with. Therefore, indie artists not only depend on streaming services, which have been called out for ripping off artists, to get a roof over their heads but also on a collaboration with a big-name company. Below are five indie artists that are navigating the commercial scene smoothly.

1. Wilco

Well known for their fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco has garnered much attention in the commercial scene. Wilco is an American alternative rock band, formed by some of the former members of Uncle Tupelo. The band was formed in 1994 following a conflict between Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, both members of Uncle Tupelo.

The membership of the band has changed since its formation, but the singer, Jeff Tweedy, and the bassist, John Stirrat, remain from the original members. In addition to the two, the Illinois-based band’s current lineup comprises Nels Cline, Pat Sansone, Mikael Jorgensen, and Glen Kotche.

So far, Wilco has released 10 studio albums and two live double albums. The band’s latest album, titled “Cruel Country,” was released in 2022. The artists have collaborated with both Billy Bragg and Minus 5. The band made its debut with the album A.M in 1995 in the same alternative country as its original band, Uncle Tupelo. However, the band’s 1996 album Being There was touched up with keyboard and noisy texture, which was a diversion from its alt-rock days.

The release of Yankee Foxtrot Hotel in 2002 witnessed Wilco’s breakup from its label, Reprise Records, owned by Warner Brothers. As a result, the band became exclusive owners of their album and started streaming it on their website, where it gained popularity. It was later sold to Nonesuch Records, which was also a subsidiary of Warner Brothers Music, just like Reprise Records.

The band’s studio album won two Grammy awards, including the best alternative music award. Commercially, the band members have participated in television both collectively and individually. In 2007, the band members were featured in a Volkswagen advert, which led to fans’ accusation that the band had sold out. However, in 2012, Wilco’s song “I’m Always in Love,” from their album Summerteeth, was featured on the Sprint commercial. More recently, the band’s drummer, Glen Kotche, was televised in an advertisement for Delta Faucet.


No doubt, Munnycat is emerging as one of the biggest independent artists. Perhaps you are familiar with the song Howya like me now, featured in Crest Whitening Emulsion. Maybe it is the song, Level Up (La Da Di), used in the eBay commercial. MUNNYCAT can attribute their popularity to hundreds of partnerships with brands globally.

Munnycat is an Indie-duo pop formed in 2016 by Katianne Timko (K808) and Khaled Tabbara (Khaledzou). The couple formed their band upon realizing that the producers favored the songs they made together more than their individual songs. The LA couple released their first EP, Platinum Gold, in 2017 with a song with the same title, later becoming the AHA Coca-Cola sparkling water commercial song.

3. Tegan and Sara

Tegan Rain Quin and Sara Keirsten Quin are a band of award-winning Canadian indie duo artists. Known by their stage name Tegan and Sara, the duo of identical twins formed their band in 1998 in Alberta. They are part of the mainstream not just through their songs but also through their activism in the LGBT community.

Tegan and Sara have nine albums in their collection, with their tenth album, Crybaby, due to be released in the last quarter of this year. The duo’s foray into the advertisement scene was when they appeared in the Oreo commercial in 2014. Although the indie rock duo are both songwriters and instrumentalists, they did not write the song used in the commercial.

5. Pomplamoose

The Pomplamoose has appeared in a series of Hyundai commercials, the most popular of which is the ‘Deck the Halls’ Hyundai Holiday, which became a household TV ad in 2010. The duo, comprising singer Nataly Dawn and music instrumentalist Jack Conte, has been in the musical scene since 2008. The American pop artists have become internet sensation, winning the Shorty Award for Best YouTube Musician.

The band has enjoyed a series of commercials, including the famous Toyota ‘Mr. Sandman’ advertisement. Just recently, the band’s cover song, One Way or Another, was featured in a Spark NZ commercial.

5. Arctic Monkeys

The Arctic Monkeys are trend setters. Formed in 2002, the band lineup comprises Alex Turner, Jamie Crook, Matt Helders, and Nick O’Malley. With a blend of post-punk revival, garage rock, psychedelic rock, blues rock, and hard rock, the Arctic Monkeys are possibly the most diverse alternative rock band of their generation.

The multi-award winning band has redefined the musical scene. Based in Sheffield, England, Arctic Monkeys became popular after the release of their first two singles, I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor and When the Sun Goes Down, which were later incorporated into their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That I’m Not, in 2006.

Despite the band’s huge success, it sticks with its traditional promotion method of releasing their songs for free before their official release. The English rock band did not sign with a record label but has a commercial footprint. The band’s song “Do I Wanna Know” was featured in Ford’s truck advertisement.

Final Thoughts

The internet has given independent artists more control over their songs. Successful indie artists have shown that you do not have to sign with a record label to be successful. However, you can take a leaf out of the book of these indie artists by going commercial, not just to make money but to get your song to a wider audience.