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Don’t Worry, The New Twilight Soundtrack Only Makes You Feel Like Indie is Dead

The tracklist for Twilight: Eclipse was released yesterday. And the very fact that it has the word “indie” attached to it with such liberality is making aging hipsters twitch in their ergonomic office chairs.

soindieThe fact that a soundtrack featuring the likes of Muse, Vampire Weekend, and Beck can possibly be called “indie” points to a worm eating at the heart of the music industry, and the marriage between indie rock and the teen movie franchise-du-jour feels like it’s driving the final nail into the proverbial coffin. Which is too bad, because while indie rock might be as cold and dead and only occasionally charming as Edward Cullen, indie music, proper, certainly is not, and getting the two mixed up is a huge mistake.

The Difference Between “Indie Rock” and “Independent Musicians”

It’s inevitable that, as indie music moved from a niche scene to the mainstream, a backlash would occur. The very underground-types who started the trend have come to despise it. And who can blame them, when Green Day is often the number one hit on YouTube’s indie music page, you know that “indie” has gone from a philosophy to a cheesy genre.

It’s not hard to see how this all went down. Indie rock was independent once. In the 70s and 80s, it was the domain of DIY punk outfits and weirdo rock bands like The Smiths and The Pixies. And it was a big deal at the time, because major labels were so dominant that independent labels and bands couldn’t get off the ground with being crushed or bought out.

The 90s independent scene was a turning point. Indie label Subpop showed its strength by turning grunge into a mainstream movement. Then, when alternative bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam became the biggest acts in the world, “indie” became the rock scene that stayed fringy and underground.

What’s In A Name?

Where the terminology got iffy was when these underground bands started to get scooped up, silently and with little fanfare, by major labels. Bands that started out indie, like Sonic Youth, The Offspring, and later, Modest Mouse, and Death Cab for Cutie, slipped onto major label rosters. Simultaneously, majors got desperate to sign anything that sounded like it was coming out of the underground, and young, untried acts like The Strokes, The Killers, and Interpol were getting signed so fast it would make anyone completely lose their songwriting ability.

By 2000, indie wasn’t about a DIY approach to music anymore; it had become a sound, a very particular and increasingly generic pop-rock sound. Again, major labels had taken something cool and ruined it, and today, indie is well on its way to becoming not only a played-out genre, but an ironic punchline about music that’s anything but what it claims to be.

Which Means It’s Still Tough to be Truly Independent

The sad thing about “indie” going from a descriptive term for DIY music to a mainstream genre is that there are more truly independent artists struggling to make it out there today than ever before. And an independent musician has no particular genre category that they can slip into. Current independent artists are making hip hop, electronic, lo-fi, folk, metal, and everything in between.

At a time when the term “indie” has come to refer to a genre and movement that is not so much dead as gruesomely undead, we’re also in the midst of the greatest revolution in independent music making since small labels first began to struggle out from under the thumbs of the majors in the early 80s.

Today, artists aren’t just indie-by-force. There’s a whole scene out there of musicians saying NO to major labels, leaving major labels, and even shunning indie labels for the chance to be truly independent, to make, record, and produce their own music, and it’s happening across every genre you can name.

Time To Say Goodbye To A Dirty Word

Unfortunately, it’s hard to be an independent artist without being mistaken for the usual pseudo-underground pop-rock shlock. And so it seems that it may indeed be time to retire the word “indie” as a concept too used and abused to be taken any further. But if this is the case, then what should we call it, that huge and diverse community of artists out there making music their own way? DIY? Music 2.0? Post-industry?

What do you think? If you could rename the independent music community and get rid of the hopelessly outplayed “indie” moniker forever, what would you call it?



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  1. matt
    "young, untried acts like The Strokes, The Killers, and Interpol were getting signed so fast it would make anyone completely lose their songwriting ability." Haha, thats hilarious. Thats what it sounds like happened to Interpol. Their second album sounded like a bad rip off of the first. Big let down. Sovereign rock? rock du resistance? peoples rock? excavated underground rock? spelunker punk? cavern country? igneous rock? The possibilities are endless.
  2. matt
    "INDIE-CRED RATING: 6/10" wtf? wtf? lol.
  3. Indie being used as a genre is plain wrong. Indie needs to be brought back to its roots and mean what it is...indie is Independent. Independent of major record labels etc.