The evolution of the independent genre
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There was once a time when the term ‘indie’ wasn’t classified as just a musical descriptor of a particular genre, but as a driver of self-identification for consumers of indie music.
Derived from the process of developing music independently from the shackles of a major label deal, being an indie band or liking their music was once a statement of rebellion, an antithesis to the mainstream.
From Tony Wilson’s Factory Records to Geoff Travis’s Rough Trade of the late 1970s, the often dark and heavy alternatives released on these labels (Joy Division, The Smiths) to the mainstream Top of the Pops favourites (The Bee Gees) were a musical world away.
But then, the indie bands got popular and the majors wanted a slice.
Now, the strong socio-political message that indie was once renowned for has been replaced by a term used to describe the aesthetic and sound of an artist. It may have lost its angle as a term to describe the resistance to mainstream culture, but is that really much of a big deal?
I think that the problem lies with the fake indies which seem to mimic indie tendencies, purely for commercial gain.
The term indie has also been criticised in recent times for its homogenous disposition and its role as the pretentious genre, as the aesthetic has developed into what it is today. In my teens, I was branded a music snob for liking bands that wore skinny jeans and sang about the seaside in thick London accents.
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Musically, it seems that the line between indie and mainstream have become so blurred, it’s almost impossible to differentiate the two.
But who’s to say an indie artist can’t also have commercial success? I once wrote about how independent artists are taking over the music industry as the digital revolution has opened up an almost level playing field for creatives all over the world.
But that doesn’t mean that you won’t find gold in the mainstream too, especially when some of the most genius independents of our time are now selling out arenas, thanks to evolution of the independent genre.