Last week, we told you that WXPN was reformatting their streaming station XPN2 and naming it Singer Songwriter Radio. Inside that hard-hitting piece of journalism, we found out that Program Director Bruce Warren felt that it was time to put a fork (not of the pitch variety) in Indie Rock. As in, the entire genre/industry.
Siting among other apocalyptic bellwethers, the two-night arena stand by the likes of Mumford and Sons and the notoriously unaware Kim Kardashian’s mention of Tame Impala, Warren claimed that Indie rock was “dead” in that it was “ubiquitous.” As you might guess, there were some indie rock enthusiasts who were less than charmed with this turn of phrase.
No one likes to be told that their Gladwellian hours have made them master buggy whip craftsmen, and even less joy will they derive having their tastes likened to those of the biggest manatee in the mainstream. There was a kerfuffle in the comments section. Here’s a taste:
BGWex: Indie rock is dead is the most ridiculous statement I’ve heard in a long time. Look at all the indie rock shows thriving at venues around Philly. Go to Union Transfer, Johnny Brenda’s, or Kung Fu Necktie lately? Indie rock is alive and growing. Just because it didn’t work for that station is no reason to knock it in general. It’s a good thing that YNotRadio.net is still around to serve us indie rock fans.
So, salty Philebrity commenters aside, is indie rock dead? Back when the earth was young and music came from stores, on big black circles that you paid for with money, independent music was a revolutionary and difficult thing to produce, let alone share. Garages and shitty clubs and cassette tapes and all of the lo-fi DIY had an authentic grime. But just as corporations ruined movies and healthcare and democracy and craft beer and food (and just as surely as they will ruin marijuana one day soon), once the indie rock numbers became acceptable, they became co-optable and now every boutique record label must be Googled twice to make sure that Tommy Mottola isn’t pulling the strings via fiber optics.
With so much music, and information about music a fingertip away, indie rock has never been easier to produce, or harder to expose. Though the democratization of the technology has boosted the signal, it just can’t keep apace the noise of the infinite monkeys typing away on blogs. Amid such cacophony, it often comes down to volume and big megaphones take the deep pockets.
Now, it’s no secret that too many people pay for too little music and everybody from The Rolling Stones to your brother’s jazz-hop-dubstep band are making less scratch. I’m pretty sure Mick and Keith are gonna be OK. But your brother and his dirtbag drummer can’t afford to fill the van and drive to Boston once a month like they used to. He spends more time waiting tables and less time hustling and flowing. That in itself isn’t killing Indie, but it ain’t exactly chicken soup for the musician’s soul, either.
But the student of history would not let the bastardizations get him down. Remember, the response to the call “Indie Rock is dead” is “long live Indie Rock” and you might wanna watch this fascinating little talk that Seth Godin gave to the TEDheads. Goodin postulates that the internet and social media has reignited a primal part of humanity, our tribal nature. With time and space melted by packets of electrons, it is in these tribes that we will rediscover the overlaps in our Venns and find smaller but more meaningful ways to communicate what we’ve been dying to say all along. Which is to say: We’ll reinvent indie rock.
Look: Like a pair of shoes, almost as soon as something becomes a thing, someone will write that the thing is dead. In fact, right now, we’re working on a piece about how this post is so over. So let’s conclude by quoting a little known Garden State songwriter who one warbled “Everything dies baby that’s a fact/But everything that dies someday comes back”
Call this a jumping off point. Indie rock at its best is nothing if not democratic. Spew your opinions on its beating heart below.
— Adam Brodsky
Adam Brodsky, is, in no particular order, a World Record Holding Folksinger, Writer, Baseball fan, and Beer League First Baseman who hits for average. His Novel will be out when he fucking finishes it, so get off his back! You can follow him @adambrodsky