1/5/2017 1:55:28 PM
Indie Music vs Indie Artist
This is an article submitted to us by a writer named Jason Gordon.
The definition of indie music is pretty straightforward, or at least it used to be; it described artists who weren't on major record labels. This could've meant they were signed to an independent label or they released music themselves. However, lately, the concept of "indie" appears to have taken a turn to focus more on aesthetics and style than label signings. Even if you're signed to a major label, there's still a good chance you'll be called "indie."
If a band releases everything on their own or without the support of a major label, that still isn't a guarantee that they will be called "indie." They might be independent, but they aren't necessarily "indie." For instance, an unsigned metal band or rapper will be referred to as metal and hip-hop. Their unsigned status might come up, but it's not going to create any expectations about their sound.
With artists who are considered "indie," they are making music with a distinct sound. Typically, this is rock music in the same vein as bands like Pavement, Guided by Voices and Sebadoh, artists who helped popularize a sound in the 90s that has carried over to today. Yes, these bands happened to not be signed to major labels, but their sound was more important to defining them than their business decisions. In hip-hop, the face of indie music is Chance The Rapper, who despite not being signed to a major label, received seven Grammy nominations this year. Chance has released three mixtapes, with Coloring Book, his most recent work, is the only streaming-only album to receive a Grammy nomination.
However, the line between indie and mainstream has become increasingly blurred. Indie rock has breached the mainstream, with bands such as Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire topping the Billboard charts. Bands such as Imagine Dragons, whose two albums have come out on Interscope, a major record label, have qualities of bands like Arcade Fire. Two decades ago, it might have seemed like indie music was always meant for the bars and clubs; now it's being played in arenas and headlining festivals.
At this point, using "indie" as a genre tag doesn't really do many favors, especially not for the listener who wants to know what it sounds. A band might sound like "indie rock," but some indie rock bands can be more aptly described as "math rock" or "post-hardcore" or "slowcore." Sometimes, it's simply just "rock music" and the indie label shouldn't matter.
While conventional wisdom might have once been that artists who started "indie" would work their way up to working with more prominent artists, the opposite seems to be happening. For instance, Carly Rae Jepsen, after her smash hit "Call Me Maybe," collaborated with the likes of Dev Hynes and Rostam Batmanglij, two prominent indie musicians, for her latest album, "Emotion."
You can be independent without being seen as "indie" and you can be seen as "indie" without actually being independent. It is strange semantics, but it's best not to worry about it. No matter whether an artist is releasing music that they completely self-financed and self-released, or if they have the most powerful record label backing them, what matters in the end is the music.