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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Editorial: Does Indie Cred Have Meaning?

The blogosphere has been lit up recently with discussion of authenticity, credibility and selling out. This then begs the question of what does indie credibility really mean. Opinions abound...for Carles at Hipster Runoff it's all about being true to some undefined hipster credo and not becoming "lamestream." I'm sure most people into indie music have some opinion on this question, I certainly have mine, which I will share in this editorial.

For me the question of authenticity has no meaning. How can one begin to define authentic? By what criteria? Does it even matter? Are rural people the only ones that can do folk, does one have to grow up in the inner city to do rap, do you have to be a disadvantaged youth to do punk. For me the answer is in the music. Good music in any genre can be considered as authentic.

So, for me, the question of indie credibility comes down to one of huge corporate machines vs small labels, collectives and DIY ventures. Over the years the major labels have come to view the exploitation of indie as a way to further their stranglehold on radio and the consumer market. One need look no farther than the Lana Del Ray charade to see this. Foisted on the world as the next great indie chantuse, LDR was no more than a complete sham, created by managers and Interscope ( the world's largest major label) to suck at the teat of indie. This was a scheme worthy of Bush and Cheney. LDR was never indie and should have never been allowed to exploit the indie market. But the major blogs and indie radio fell prey to the siren song and we are all that much worse for it.

So this brings up the question, does success itself make one lose indie credibility. Again for me the answer is yes. Some indie labels are now almost as big as the majors (the four largest label groups). Should these no longer be considered indie, I would say yes. Does a band's success make them no longer indie, again I would say yes. I love Arcade Fire, but headlining arenas is mainstream, not indie. I love The Decemberists, but being on Capitol Records is not indie.

Selling out is also not indie. Again, for me, being indie denotes a certain set of ideals, none of which include enriching "The Man." Recently Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast announced her new signature clothing line for Urban Outfitters. Now Urban Outfitters have cool cloths, they have a cool section that sells the hippest indie vinyl records...they are also a corporation whose CEO is  one of the most extreme right wing despots and one of the biggest supporters of Rick Santorum's failed bid to be dictator of America. I love Best Coast, but doing a clothing line for a corporation that exploits everything indie only to support the religious right is, for me, the very definition of selling out. Shame on you Bethany for sitting back with your ganja, to naive to see that this is wrong...and if it's the money being offered rather than naivety...well again, I think we have hit upon the definition of selling out.

So there are some of my thoughts on the issue of indie cred. I would like to know yours. Send comments to russianwinterrecords (at) gmail (dot) com.