That’s an Indie, This is an Indie, Everything’s an Indie…Or Is It

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As you may have noticed I’ve been slacking in my indie music posts again, but this time it’s not due to forgetfulness…well, at least not totally due to forgetfulness, let’s face it, people are lucky I remember to wear pants most days, but rather confusion has held me up a bit this time. After doing my usual interwebs searching for indie bands, I began noticing a trend in the bands I was finding: many are signed to major labels. Correct me if I’m wrong – no, seriously, I’d really like to know the answer to this one – I’ve always thought of indie bands as independent of major labels. They produce, write, create and distribute the music on their own or through smaller labels that lack the big bucks. They aren’t particularly well-known (or maybe they are if they’re good at that whole marketing thing) and they aren’t really mainstream. They are, in essence, indie-pendent bands, so if indie bands sign to major labels, what exactly makes them an “indie” band? With a bit of research, a few opinions and a lot of questions, I ultimately ended up more confused than when I had started and gave up on the whole subject for a while, but I’ve decided to give this another go and after some more thought, I have come up with a few answers.

IndyJones1) An indie band is defined by the label, as I had presumed, i.e. they are not signed to a major label and once they do so, they are no longer an indie band by definition.

2) An indie band can be signed to a major label, but the label merely acts as a distributor of their music, which was created and produced (for the most part) by the band itself, therefore allowing the band to maintain their indie status while allowing for wider distribution and more listeners. Obviously, that is the main goal of most musicians out there, after all.

3) Bands can be signed to major labels and keep their indie status during that weird purgatorial period after first being signed where they aren’t quite known by anyone outside their local pub and the local pub adores them…but that could just be the beer.

4) Indie bands are a genre in and of themselves with sub-genres in rock, pop, country and other musical styles making the label completely irrelevant. Okay, so this one I disagree with as genres define a certain sound the music possesses. Indie is not a genre. Rock, pop, country, hip hop, etc… those are genres, right?

5) Indie is basically the same as Alternative. Alternative is another point of confusion. Perhaps at one time alternative referred to the band instead of the band’s sound, but the definition of alternative has been blurred to such a point that it is basically a genre. Could this be the direction indie is headed, basically leaving general confusion in its wake when people ask about indie music?

7) It’s all just a matter of opinion and/or I’m completely missing something, which is more than likely the correct answer here.

i-feel-like-im-taking-crazy-pillsAfter all my research, the mental breakdown and the meds, I’ve determined absolutely nothing about indie bands. An indie band can be whatever you want it to be, perhaps at one time it was clear-cut: indies weren’t signed to major labels, but completely, and I mean completely independent. Once signed to a major label the band fell under one of the numerous mainstream genres, no longer qualifying as an indie band and, with the indie purists out there, those bands that lost their indie status also earned the sellout stigma. But now with so many indie artists reaching mainstream status and the era of interwebs, self-publishing crazies (no offense, you are my people), the definition has blurred into an unrecognizable amalgamation of musical genres for you to pick and choose from at your leisure, labels be damned. I guess I’ll have to stick to my indie purist ideas for a while because they make the most sense to me or just focus on all those unsigned noobs out there, but if you have a definitive answer, please let me know! If only for the sake of my mental sanity: what makes an indie band an “indie” band?

Carrie Hildebrand