I remember back in the day, when the term “indie” was spoken, it was referred to as independent music and art. This type of music and art is typically outside of the mainstream and not financed by corporate financing. Independent doesn’t just mean music and art. It can also be about a self-established business, like for example, The Garage Door Guy (www.thegaragedoorguycorp.com).
Independent coincides with a sense of idealism and anti-corporation. For years, independent music hosts a whole subculture made up of musicians who create music for enjoyment and pleasure, not profit. The thing about independent musicians is that they are not beholden to the same profit-based bottom line or shareholder pressure that a lot of music labels are. If you are an independent musician, you are able to promote your music, even if it doesn’t have any type of commercial appeal.
It saddens me to see the change in the independent music scene today. Back when it started, it was really about creativeness and do-it-yourself. Now, independent is just a branding tool, an image some artists want to portray. It is more commercial than ever now, more concerned about making money on looking and sounding a certain way. If more disconcerting is that some major music labels and corporations now handle distribution for a huge number of indie labels.
So what does independent music mean? Independent art is a feeling more than a label. For me, I know indie music when I hear it. First and foremost, it isn’t the norm, the music and the art is guided by the artist and not the big-wigs in the glass tower.
The reason big corporations became interested in independent music is they saw the vast number of loyal followers that a lot of the independent music bands had. For example, let’s take a look at Nirvana. Straight out of Washington, this independent music group had a huge fan base. When they exploded onto the mainstream, major music labels saw how popular independent music could be. Mind you, this was even after lead singer Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994.
The major music labels felt that if the indie artists were given more exposure, they would appeal to a broader audience. This has caused the line to become blurred. Smaller music labels that are hungry for financial security, now have PR firms handling their marketing. On the other hand, major music labels are now putting an “indie” label on a lot of music and art in an attempt to attract a trendier audience.
The problem is that these supposedly indie music and art overshadows real indie music and art that was created by true independent artists on a lower budget and who could really use the money.
There are still some who stay true to the independent movement. For example, several independent hip-hop/rap artists who have deals with large corporations still manage and promote independent artists who are not part of the mainstream.