Monday, April 18, 2011

Is Indie Finally Taking Over the Mainstream?

Ann Powers of NPR’s The Record has a fascinating piece that deals with the indie music selling out and taking over entitled It’s The Summer Of Selling Out, And It Feels Fine. 

From the story –
Call what's coming the summer of audacious and purposeful selling out. Its major players are artists who project ferocious self-determination – the aura of independence – while hungrily laying claim to the status quo.


Whether they're progressive, apolitical or genuinely freaky isn't the point – no matter how much success they gain, these artists continually cultivate the spirit of party crashing, which lends energy to their music and defines their unyielding commitment to outrageousness.

But what of the artists whom lovers of what's long been called "indie rock" would call indie? They, too, have fully adjusted to the changes that have rendered obsolete the limits once famously articulated by Kurt Cobain, singing of "our little group" and his fear of stranger-danger in "Smells Like Teen Spirit," the un-anthem that still best articulates classic indie's panicky slam-dance with success.


Kids attending their first summer festivals this year probably don't remember a time when (profitably) lending a song to an action-movie soundtrack or a steak restaurant was viewed as the kiss of artistic death. For them, big indie is a natural phenomenon. Of course, there's never been anything natural about selling music: the first organ grinder to set out his tin cup was compromised, and yet also empowered. Finding their way toward some kind of truth within that double-bind, today's noisy sellouts play for change.
Being a member of the generation that was horrified to see our underground heroes become rock stars, I have since come to terms with that part of my music snobbery. If a band or artist is able to make a living through his/her/their music without completely compromising themselves in the process, then I say more power to them. This is obviously not the same attitude I would have had 20 years ago but that was when I was a kid without responsibilities.

My hope is that this new tide of indie acceptance won’t turn into another corporate created mess like we had by the mid-1990’s. But even if the masses learn to appreciate great music, I’m sure there will always be a group of artists off to the side doing their own thing and the small cult-like groups of fans that follow and appreciate them.

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