Monday, December 6th, 2010...9:04 pm

so what is indie rock?

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      So what is indie rock? Through research for my final paper I have found myself muttering this question to myself day in and day out. Every time I think I have the answer, I read something else that makes me question my previous thought. First we have to distinguish are we talking about “indie rock” as a genre, or “indie/independent rock” as the financial status of the artists?
      If we are talking about indie rock as a genre, we must realize that in the music industry genres tend to overlap. Indie rock may also be referred to as, alternative, lo-fi, college rock, garage rock, riot grrrl, as well as, post-hardcore, to name a few. Artists categorized in the indie rock genre may be found signed to independent record labels as well as, some that have been signed to major record labels. The typical instruments used by artists in these genres are guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and vocals, however they are not limited to these and some artist may incorporate other instruments. In our readings for this week, Hibbett roughly traces the origin of indie rock to the underground music scene. He explains that these artists create, “songs too unconventional to receive playtime on anything but low-powered college radio stations and too challenging or subversive for an older less educated audience.” Which is why most indie artists are still only found in the underground scene. Yet, Hibbett and Bourdieu point out that some artists such as R.E.M. (signed to a major record label at the time) will reinvent themselves by “incorporating something from the restricted field.”
      On the other hand, if we are talking strictly about indie (or independent) rock as the financial status of an artists, we are talking about only those artists not signed by major record labels. Hibbett states, “The very name “indie” denotes a more concerted effort to separate the “good” from the “popular” – to be not just an “alternative to,” but “independent of.” These artists practice the DIY (Do-it-yourself) ethic, recording their own music, distributing their albums themselves, playing for people in local bars and clubs. The DIY ethic creates this feeling of a more raw, direct look into an artist’s mind along with their talent. Fans find this to feel more real or true to the artist because they are not being altered by any commercial or mainstream input. This is who the artist is and this is how they think and perform. Many indie artist believe that mainstream messes with an artist’s creativity, making them fold and be molded into what the commercial mainstream believes the public wants to see instead of letting the public decide for themselves.
       Which brings me to my next issue, if an indie band makes it from the underground scene to the mainstream, are they truly considered sell outs? This is definitely debatable, I believe that this is left for the bands to decide. Will they fold and allow the mainstream to mold them into their own little puppets or will they stay true to their indie reputation and music by demanding what they want? I believe that power is knowledge, and when indie artist are well known and sought out by major record labels they have more power to demand what they want and believe. Although they may make the jump to a major label they can still be true to their music, they just have to be smart and know what they want.

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3 Comments

  • If an indie band does succeed and makes an enormous breakthrough in the maintstream, I don’t see it as “selling out”. I would look at the band as an example of musicians who take pride and believes in their material. The members don’t want to see drastic changes made to their style of music, which is why they rather branch off on their own and hopefully get a crowd to recognize them. These bands usually come off with an attitude of this is “who we are” its an either enjoy our style or tune into something else. For example most indie bands do not fold, or at least the ones I have been listening to have not, which why most are not either around anymore because they refused to change with the times or they are still making music but are back to where they used to be which is underground. The reason why most Indie bands rise to their peak and fall back into the underground could be, for example I posted a clip of a musician named Brad Laner, who is indie rock, during the early to mid 90’s he used to be in a band called “Medicine” who were very popular, not a huge success but they got around, nowadays they are no longer together I believe due to personal reasons, yet the singer Beth Thompson last time I heard is still doing music but she fell back into the underground scene, while the guitarist Brad Laner is also underground. I purchased his album “neighbor singing” which I recommend to everyone who enjoys Indie rock and shoegaze sound. It’s def a wild, trippy, album. As talented as he is, well I believe so, he is very gifted in creating music, but now he has returned to his roots in that he is recording in the studio in his own home and performs at small venues.

  • It’s interesting how indie rock chooses to be different, but at the same time, wants to sort of break into the mainstream music. But at the same time, it’s just a genre to categorize them after all, I agree. It’s also hard for many indie rockers because, when they go underground, they don’t really get the same responses as mainstream music. They want to be unique and plus it’s a way for them to experiment and explore new and different kinds of sounds to furbish their musical styles.

  • It is hard to differentiate between the 2 because of how you mention all of the Genres overlap. I guess we can all agree that there is no clear cut form of Indie Rock as it can fall under many categories in the music world. There is an Indie style and an Indie features but were is the line drawn. 9 inches nails who is an unsigned band and Boys like Girls who is signed to a major label are both considered Indie Rock and both fall under the genre. Although they are both very different. This is the case for various bands whom are signed and not signed

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