The Myth of Indie Rock
Indie Rock, if you take the term literally, has been around since the inception of Rock N Roll. The term Indie is short for Independent and fits many situations. Sun Records for example was an Indie label in its time, believe it or not, because it began operation outside the mainstream. Of course it is synonymous with other American Icons now but in its inception it was definitely Independent. I understand that Indie Rock, the term itself, distinguished many other acts from mainstream music beginning in the 1980s? But is that relevant now? It is not and I for one and absolutely ecstatic about it.
The hipsters are quick to throw around terms which are losing their meaning. The genre classifications and subgenre classifications and then the sub genres of the sub genres became fun sport over say the last 20 plus years. This parlor game is losing its muster.
When I talk to young people about how they acquire music, listen to it but more specifically, what they listen to, the gamut is ripe with diversity. (Note to artists you better be paying attention to the up and coming listeners because they are your audience.) The “young-uns” care less about genre and more about accessibility and things that make them groove or speak to them in a certain way. Theirs is a much different experience than listeners from decades gone by and I can honestly say it is a beautiful thing.
What makes them special is that they have everything within the tips of their fingers, literally. In the old days people used to have to go to a store, pick out an album, take it home, and then experience it. I used to think I would long for those days but I do not, I am actually happy they are over. Why? The audience for music has broadened to a level that we are just now beginning to understand or at least conceptualize.
Record companies and the suits could manipulate people into buying this band or that band because they had ‘gamed’ the system to their advantage. Then came Napster and file sharing and then streaming and now Spotify and their seemingly impenetrable fortress proved to be little more than a house of cards. It was hucksterism on the highest level and we all used to eat it by the spoonful. We went from being handed out our music like Soylent Green to a brave new world in what, ten years? It is not stopping and the labels are doomed to fade if I cannot see their image becoming transparent now.
Sure there will be major label acts on what appears to be a label but in reality that label will merely be a front for a major corporation to make its jingles to go along with more of its Soylent Green: music to sell stuff to the masses with. But real music, made by real artists, will become limitless and there for the consumption of the people. There will be many changes which will happen with much rapidity. That is the mistake analogous minds make converting to a digital world.
In the old days things progressed at a slow clip, then an innovation, then a plateau of sameness until someone else invented the next super duper mousetrap and then sameness for a while, but the speed at which we progressed was picking up. People longed for the sameness and found solace in the respite before the next thing came along. There is no time to catch your breath any longer. Get used to it and merge your art with it.
But the idea of Indie Rock is silly. When you have 3 million gabillion bands not just in the US but the entire planet all making music, albeit most of it bad, then any genre distinction only serves to quantify it for the listener who by the way doesn’t want to be quantified or classified. That is why there will be no more “movements” in rock, which arguably, if not really, were all just press release scams dreamt up by publicists from the bygone era when Rock N Roll became big business and the machine lead the public around by the nose. So where does that leave us? I can tell you one thing for sure:
If you are all Indie then no one is Indie. Get it.
Two Lights not treated Too Fairly
Apparently the brothers Abner and Harper Willis have stirred up a kerfuffle over a piece one of them wrote for Time magazine. They front the Indie Rock band Two Lights and in the article shared what the experience of being an up and coming band in this day and age encompasses, warts and all. Where the message of this piece seems to have gone awry with many people is that the message “it is really hard to make it and it is not what you think once you get there” has been flipped to read “we spent a bunch of money where is our rock superstardom?” which I do not believe was the original intent of the article.
I came across the article in a much read blog I subscribe to and then read a couple of the accompanying articles linked to it which pretty much painted the band as rich kids who were whining, which is not the case if you really read the article from a musician’s standpoint. Also if you are a musician, just starting out, this is a good place to start reading if you are considering entering the field of rock star, performer, musician, or whatever you want to call it.
Another thing is this: go listen to their music. http://www.myspace.com/twolightsband
I did and thought it was good. It was rock n roll which is always a firm place to start in comparison to a great deal of drivel spewed out these days.
I read and re-read the article and realized that Two Lights are not saying that “look we spent $100,000 and we are mad because we are not getting what we deserve” it seems to me they are offering up a road map that used to work for musicians. (a side note is that when they come up with the sum of $100,000 it is misleading to present the issue as: they handed over $100,000 to a bunch of suits and expected them to make them stars. They begin adding it all up from the time they were kids, which is good Intel if you are a kid and even thinking about pursuing a vocation like this.) The title of the article, Want to Be a Rock Star? You’ll Need $100,000, is where the thing gets off on the wrong foot. $55,000 of this money went to lessons and gear alone. I could have clipped the gear total down a bit but I am cheap.
The major problem these guys face seem to be where they chose to live: NYC. It is expensive. I can see the point of wanting to be in a major, or the major, metropolis in the world but again this is from the “used to work” ethos. With the internet and the direct link artists have to fans it would seem like a wiser move to be somewhere else less expensive and throw your funding more heartily at your career.
This is what I would tell any young artist: reach out to your fans and make new ones, daily! The people who “used to” know how to make things work are not so good at making them work anymore. The Clive Davis and Ahmet Erteguns of the world do not fit as they once did. I find this sad because those two gentlemen alone sprung forth a ton of sonic greatness so mammoth we are still digging our way out. Yet it does not work the way it used to. First you have to believe in yourself, not listen to your detractors because they are lurking around every corner, and make great damn music. The one thing at the end of the day you can depend on is that. Great music cuts through the other entire BS that people are trying to throw out about analytics and the new improved mouse traps. Make music and you will have an audience. Put it out there to them and make them accessible to you.
I will also use this as an opportunity to rail on one other thing. People who comment on other artists but make no art themselves or are not involved in the creation of art in some capacity are weak and tired. It is so very easy to tear things down when you are not capable of building things yourself. The hacks that troll on blog comments, those that make no art, never surprise me in their internet bravery. They are generally a failed something and what comfort they find in ranking on others that are doing their thing I will never know. But then again they fuel attention to the artists which I guess is not that bad after all. So maybe I just made my own argument for their existence. I will leave it to them to fight it out under the bridge.