In today’s music industry the term “indie” is usually associated with the genres that have chosen to attach the label to them, including indie rock—which has its roots in 1980’s college rock, and today includes many elements as far-ranging as psychedelia, Seattle grunge, rock, and alt-country—and indie pop, which is a lighter version and more capable of crossing over to traditional radio.
These genres have soared in popularity in recent years, despite some of the very unconventional methods its musicians use to get it heard. Technology has changed the name of the game for many of these artists, allowing them more financial and creative freedom, and more online forums and websites to post their projects. In the early-to-mid 2000’s, countless indie artists who are household names now got their start thanks to their presence on Myspace. More recently, CDBaby and iTunes continue to allow the same possibilities.
Although this method is popular with up-and-coming artists or bands who might not have had a large audience without it, more well-known musicians share similar views. Many believe that while the music industry changes, and inevitably suffers, due to the rise of technology, artists would do well to keep up to date with the latest trends and use them to their advantage. Numerous successful bands and artists have chosen to stream their music before its release, and Radiohead willingly gave away their wildly successful 2007 record In Rainbows for free before its official release date. Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes has openly expressed disdain for artists who refuse to move with the times, and believes in illegal downloading and file-sharing as plausible alternatives to purchasing music. This may, admittedly, be a fairly uncommon view, but it is indicative of the turning tides; the music industry is a different place than it was twenty or thirty years ago, and musicians are taking notice.
Another intriguing thing to note about the changing indie music industry is the comeback of vinyl records. Younger music fans, along with their nostalgic parents, have helped to repopularize vinyl and romanticize the music of the past. Events such as Record Store Day, which occurs at participating record stores on the third Saturday of each April, allow participating artists to sell their albums on vinyl: an exciting prospect when you consider that most current music sales occur through iTunes. The holiday began in spring 2008 in the Bay Area of California, and in the past four years has reached such an intense level of popularity that it is now observed internationally.
Depending on who you ask, the future of the industry is both bleak and inherently full of promise–more so than any other period in history, in fact. Opinions on the matter are divided, but on both ends of the spectrum, one thing is certain. Musicians, managers, promoters, labels, and dedicated fans alike are passionately attempting to keep the genuine love and appreciation of indie music alive in these financially trying times.