Narcissism / Only One’s A Winner: Part I
2011 needs a redefinition of the term ‘indie’. Record companies are no longer the oligopoly of the previous decade. Indie charts aren’t just small-time publishing firms anymore, but self-publishing musicians supporting one another in an interconnected network of independent funding. [See Syed Druglord’s Kill Art Movement*] The very technology otherwise confined to mainstream promotion for the past fifty years has been undermined by the systemic problems induced with the arrival of MP3, cheap equipment and personal computers. Within a decade of the published article: “Every 1’s a winner” (Shuker, Roy; 2001; Understanding Popular Music), the backing conglomerate is facing a whole new beast altogether: who needs a label?
And while pop remains a genre, it is also an affiliate of a “Cultural Industry” now fighting an uphill battle against the new indie. Arguably, pop-music of today’s generation features predominantly on mainstream-radio and MTV, with label-backing. Suffice to say, anything considered mainstream now, can be swallowed up in this neat generalisation.
An unprecedented wildcard of the 20th century, The Internet, becomes the new, level playing field for labels and new-indies. Money might buy advertisements and film-clips, but popularity on the internet is all about coverage. And that, with an already established (and aforementioned indie network) is as easy as it is inexpensive. And production of hardcopies is an uncomplicated process of cheap disc-burning and Photoshop, no longer industrial. Furthermore, accidentally/deliberately leaked music is siphoning away label-backed money otherwise spent on label-produced CDs/LPs; some indie artists these days will even voluntarily release their material for further coverage.
Because the real turnover lies in tours and live performances, where indie artists are their own managers and sole profiteers – and if coverage is all they need to attract a larger audience, well…
The labels have subsequently reorganised themselves into widespread, successful online platforms like iTunes, now catering to a download-hungry audience. But the damage has already been done. All of this has only made an otherwise etch in the sand, bold; redefining pop, indie, success and the industry which now simply gratifies the artist and not their puppeteers…
Continued Part II