Thursday, May 3, 2007
Indie Rock and other Marketing Terms
Indie rock dwindles and staggers without moving forward. I am becoming more and more ashamed of liking bands donning this title at one time or another. I'm tired of gimmicks and full to the brim of this moderate rock nonsense without any conviction or soul. Amazingly, the term indie now applies to a barrage of major label music, not just independent. I am not against bands with record contracts with major labels as a whole or anything so one sided, I am just confused concerning our use of the English language. Maybe I'm just naive, but I always thought that indie meant independent. Corporations have stolen this word to splash their Wilcos and Modest Mouses with the authenticity of Fugazi. That does not make one better or the other, but it is essential for survival in this post-modern culture to define our terms accurately. Isn't it important that Fugazi worked really hard to manage a record label and charge reasonable prices for their shows without corporate sponsorship? Bands like the Killers are cashing in on this sentiment by writing songs about "Indie Rock n Roll"- and we are letting it happen! Let's start with sacred ground: Sonic Youth is not an indie band, and they haven't been since before 1990. They were independent before they signed to Geffen Records, but now they are not. That does not diminish from what they have accomplished, but they are not allowed to keep that label. The musicians still involve themselves with their own labels and projects that are independent, but that does not transfer to the band. Does anyone call Pearl Jam indie because Eddie Vedder played a few shows with Mike Watt? I hope not. This may sound like inconsequential drivel, but think about it... there are "independent" movies being distributed by Warner Brothers as we speak! Doesn't anyone see a problem with this!? If we let them have this label like we allowed them to steal punk and shit out new wave on us, then we gained nothing since Nevermind. Major label albums can be moving and relevant and punk rock can sell albums and still retain vitality. It is very important to understand that independent is to indie as punk is to new wave. The powers in control are so quick to figure out how our counterculture works and exploit it that we do not stand a chance; especially if we allow them to steal the fervor for resistance.
Complaining will not get me anywhere, so allow me to address the positives of this debacle. More and more, the enemy is revealing itself to us. We do not need to fear bands that are on major labels- that is a business decision. If they are making music that is thought provoking or challenging the lowest common denominator in any way, then the manufacturer is irrelevant. I fear bands that sign major record contracts and still label themselves indie. This music is just another clique that stubbornly retains the high school herd mentality into early to late 20 something culture. Increasingly, understanding whether a band is honest or full of beans can be measured by emphasis on labels like indie, punk or whatever in a corporate setting. The battle is not independent versus major anymore- rather, the line rips between us at the point of real or fake.