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Encyclopedia > Indie (music)

In popular music, indie music (from independent) is any of a number of genres, scenes, subcultures and stylistic and cultural attributes, characterised by perceived independence from commercial pop music and mainstream culture and an autonomous, do-it-yourself (DIY) approach. Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... Popular music is music belonging to any of a number of musical styles that are accessible to the general public and are disseminated by one or more of the mass media. ... Look up mainstream in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Definitions of "indie"

Indie and commerciality

A more puristic structural definition of "indie" would draw the line further down, not between the "big 4" major labels and others but between the "big indie" labels and smaller labels, considered by purists to be true indie labels. These small labels are typically run by a few people, often out of their home or garage, and often coupled with a mail-order service representing other labels. The people running the labels have a close connection to a certain scene; many labels are run partially or wholly by musicians in bands on them. A concern for the purity of the creative mission of the label takes precedence over commercial concerns; many labels close down or go on hiatus when the owners lose interest or (as often happens) run out of money (or sometimes close down when the owners feel their mission has been fulfilled, as happened with Sarah Records). Archetypal examples of such labels include the aforementioned Sarah Records, Factory Records, Dischord, Kindercore Records, SST and Kill Rock Stars. There and Back Again Lane is a genuine road name near Blackwells Bookshop, Park Street, Bristol, England Sarah Records was a UK independent record label, best known for its recordings of twee pop. ... FAC 115: Factory Records Stationery (1984) Factory Records was a Manchester-based British independent record label, started in 1978 which featured several prominent musical acts, such as Joy Division, New Order, The Durutti Column, Happy Mondays, and (briefly) James and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. ... Dischord founders Ian Mackaye and Jeff Nelson Dischord Records is a Washington, D.C.-based record label specializing in D.C.-area independent punk, hardcore, and post-hardcore music. ... Kindercore Records was an independent record label based in Athens, Georgia, which was founded in 1996 by Ryan Lewis and Daniel Geller to document the emerging music scene in Athens, Georgia. ... SST Records is a Lawndale, California based independent record label formed in 1978 in Long Beach, California by Black Flag founder/guitarist Greg Ginn. ... The new KRS logo by Sarah Utter on a KRS sweatshirt. ...

The converse of this are independent labels that have been perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being overly "commercial" or exploitative of certain artists or trends. Examples at various times include Fat Wreck Chords, Matador Records, Sub Pop, and Epitaph. Fat Wreck Chords is a San Francisco, California based independent record label, focused on punk rock, which was started by Fat Mike the lead singer and bassist of the punk rock band NOFX and his wife Erin, in 1990. ... Matador Records is a record label, famous for a roster of highly-respected indie rock artists and bands. ... Sub Pop is a record label in Seattle, Washington that achieved fame in the 1990s for first signing Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and many other bands from the local Seattle music scene. ... Epitaph Records is a Hollywood, California based record label owned by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. ...

Once again, this is not so much a dichotomy as a continuum; some labels grow from such independent status and gradually become more commercially oriented (often prompted by the success of one of their acts), eventually becoming subsumed by a larger conglomeration or a major label. One example of this was Creation Records, a label Alan McGee started in the 1980s on a small scale, which, in the 1990s had success with Oasis, subsequently becoming much more commercially oriented before being acquired by Sony. At least two different record labels called Creation Records have existed. ... Alan McGee is a British music industry mogul and musician famed for founding the independent Creation Records label which ran from 1983 to 2000. ... This article cites very few or no references or sources. ... For the band, see 1990s (band). ... Oasis are an English rock band, formed in Manchester in 1991. ...

Indie and genres

The word "indie" is often used to refer specifically to various genres or sounds in a realm of music that runs parallel to more commercial music. During the 1980s, "indie" was synonymous in Great Britain with jangly guitar pop of the C-86 movement. During the 1990s "indie" music became more expansive and established as a growing number of musicians and fans began seeking alternatives to the mainstream music establishment. Entire genres and sub-genres found representation from new acts, like the Red House Painters, The Sea and Cake,Metric and Polvo. More recently, the word "indie" is sometimes used as a synonym for all "underground" music, similar in the way alternative was used previously before it actually became just a specific genre of corporate, mainstream music in the 90's. Such usages of "indie" may be considered inaccurate for various reasons: for one, stylistic qualities are often not accurately correlated to commercial independence or adherence to indie principles (this is particularly true when a sound becomes popular, its leading exponents are signed by major labels and more success-oriented bands and production teams attempt to imitate the style; this ultimately culminates in commercially driven artists sporting the same stylistic traits the "indie" artists of a year ago had). Secondly, however pervasive any style of music may become at a particular time, it by definition cannot embody all of indie music, as, by indie's nature, there will be indie artists, labels and entire local scenes operating outside of this style and its definitions. This article cites very few or no references or sources. ... C86 is the name of a celebrated cassette compilation released by the British music magazine New Musical Express (NME) in 1986, featuring new bands licenced from independent labels of the time. ... For the band, see 1990s (band). ... Red House Painters is an alternative rock group formed in 1989 in San Francisco by singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek. ... The Sea and Cake, is a post rock band, formed in Chicago, Illinois. ... See: International System of Units, colloquially called the Metric System, and also metrication. ... A critically acclaimed and widely influential rock band from Chapel Hill, North Carolina that existed during the 1990s. ... Alternative rock (also called alternative music or simply alternative; known primarily in the UK as indie) is a genre of rock music that emerged in the 1980s and became widely popular in the 1990s. ...

Cultural and philosophical attributes of indie

Main article: Indie (culture)

There are a number of cultural and philosophical traits which could be more useful in pinpointing what "indie" is about than specific musical styles or commercial ownership. Indie artists are concerned more with self-expression than commercial considerations (though, again, this is a stance that is affected by many artists, including hugely commercially successful ones). A do-it-yourself sensibility, which originated with punk in the 1970s, is often associated with indie, with people in the scene being involved in bands, labels, nights and zines. Indie often has an internationalist outlook, which stems from a sense of solidarity with other fans, bands and labels in other countries who share one's particular sensibilities; small indie labels will often distribute records for similar labels from abroad, and indie bands will often go on self-funded tours of other cities and countries, where those in the local indie scenes will invariably help organize gigs and often provide accommodation and other support. In addition, there is also a strong sense of camaraderie that emerges from a selflessness among indie bands and often results in collaborations and joint tours. Indie, an abbreviation of independent, is a term regarding a trend seen in music, film, business and subculture originating in the late 20th century. ... Punk rock is an anti-establishment music movement beginning around 1976 (although precursors can be found several years earlier), exemplified and popularised by The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. ... The 1970s decade refers to the years from 1970 to 1979. ... A zine—an abbreviation of the word fanzine, and originating from the word magazine—is most commonly a small circulation, non-commercial publication of original or appropriated texts and images. ...

Indie artists of any particular time often go against the prevailing trends (for example, the twee pop movement that started in the 1980s was a reaction against the testosterone-fueled swagger of rock). A 'lo-fi' aesthetic (i.e., an often deliberate lack of polish and a more "authentic" roughness and imperfection) has often been associated with indie, particularly when slick, polished recordings were the preserve of the commercial music industry; this line has since become blurred, in a world where high-quality recordings can be made increasingly easily with inexpensive computer-based recording systems and where commercial production teams often deliberately utilize a "lo-fi" sound. This article is about the genre of music. ... This article cites very few or no references or sources. ...

Indie and technology

The concept of the album was first introduced with the invention of the phonograph. Artists became dependent on companies with capital because it was too expensive for an artist to produce and distribute an album themselves. Because of this, the choices offered to the public were decided by what the record companies chose to support and distribute. Today, technology is finally at the point where it is affordable for an artist to produce and distribute an album without the assistance of a label. Ironically, this same technology is available to consumers who can easily reproduce the music. This makes it increasingly difficult for an artist to make a living from selling albums alone.[1] An album or record album is a collection of related audio or music tracks distributed to the public. ... Edison cylinder phonograph ca. ... By the mid 20th century humans had achieved a mastery of technology sufficient to leave the surface of the Earth for the first time and explore space. ...

Internet technology allows artists to introduce their music to a potentially enormous audience at low cost without necessarily affiliating with a major recording label.[2] The design of digital music software encourages the discovery of new music. Sites with larger libraries of songs are the most successful. This, in turn, creates many opportunities for independent bands. Royalties from digital services could prove to be an important source of income. If an artist has already paid to record, manufacture, and promote their album, there is little to no additional cost for independent artists to distribute their music online.[3] Digital services offer the opportunity of exposure to new fans and the possibility of increased sales through online retailers. Artists can also release music more frequently and quickly if it is made available online. Additionally, artists have the option of releasing limited edition, out-of-print, or live material that would be too costly to produce through traditional means. This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... The term special edition implies a kind of an extraordinary, rare quality. ...

With the arrival of newer and relatively inexpensive recording devices and instruments, more individuals are able to participate in the creation of music than ever before. Studio time is extremely expensive and difficult to obtain. The result of new technology is that anyone can produce studio-quality music from their own home. Additionally, the development of new technology allows for greater experimentation with sound.[4] An artist is able to experiment without necessarily spending the money to do it in an expensive studio. For a one-room apartment, see Apartment. ... Sound is a disturbance of mechanical energy that propagates through matter as a longitudinal wave, and therefore is a mechanical wave. ...

Most artists maintain their own Web sites as well as having a presence on sites such as Myspace.com. Technological advances such as message boards, music blogs, and social networks are also being used by independent music companies to make big advances in the business.[5] Some sites, such as Garageband.com, or Redfizz.com,rely on audience participation to rate a band, allowing listeners to have a significant impact on the success of a band. This eliminates new talent search and development, one of the most costly areas of the music business. Other sites, such as sessionsound.com allow artists to upload their music and sell it at a price of their choosing. Visitors to the site can browse by genre, listen to free samples, view artist information, and purchase the tracks they want to buy.[6] Acts such as Wilco have chosen to make their new albums available for streaming before they are released.[7] MySpace. ... An Internet forum, also known as a message board or discussion board, is a web application that provides for online discussions, and is the modern descendant of the bulletin board systems and existing Usenet news systems that were widespread in the 1980s and 1990s. ... A social network is a map of the relationships between individuals, indicating the ways in which they are connected through various social familiarities ranging from casual acquaintance to close familial bonds. ... Wilco is an American rock band based in Chicago, Illinois. ...

However, the sale of digital music makes up only 5-10% of the total income generated from music sales. At this point, most people do not have broadband connections to the internet, making it relatively difficult for the general public to access music online. Many digital music services tend to focus overwhelmingly on major label acts. They don’t necessarily have the time or resources to give attention to independent artists.[8] It is possible for an artist to make more money producing and promoting their own CDs than signing with a major label. However, an independent label that is creatively productive is not necessarily financially lucrative. Independent labels are often one-or two-person operations with almost no outside assistance and run out of tiny offices.[9] This lack of resources can make it extremely difficult for a band to make revenue from sales. Broadband in telecommunications is a term which refers to a signaling method which includes or handles a relatively wide range of frequencies which may be divided into channels or frequency bins. ... An independent record label is variously described as a record label operating without the funding (or outside the organizations) of the major record labels, and/or a label that subscribes to indie philosophies such as DIY and anti-corporate art. ...

One thing an artist can consider doing if they want to be noticed by a major label is starting their own independent label. A successful independent label with a strong musical reputation can be very appealing to a major label. Major labels rely on independent labels to stay current within the ever-changing music scene.[10] Independent labels are often very good at discovering local talent and promoting specialized genres.

The difference among various independent labels lies with distribution, probably the most important aspect of running a label. A major-label distributed independent label allows the independent label to find, sign, and record their own artists. The independent label has a contract with a major label for promotion and distribution. In some cases, the major label also manufactures and releases the album. Independent labels that are owned by a major label distribute their records through independent distributors but are not purely independent. A purely independent label is not affiliated with a major label in any way. Their records are distributed through independent distributors.[11]

The three main ways for an artist to make money are record deals, touring, and publishing rights. Touring was an Italian automobile design and coachbuilding firm in the 1950s. ... “Publisher” redirects here. ...

Major label contracts

Most major label artists earn a 10-15% royalty rate. However, before a band is able to receive any of their royalties, they must clear their label for all of their debts, known as recoupable expenses. These expenses arise from the cost of such things as album packaging and artwork, tour support, and video production. An additional part of the recoupable expenses are the artist’s advance. An advance is like a loan. It allows the artist to have money to live and record with until their record is released. However, before they can gain any royalties, the advance must be paid back in full to the record label. Since only the most successful artists recoup production and marketing costs, an unsuccessful artist’s debt carries over to their next album, meaning that they see little to no royalties. Royalty may refer to either: the royal family of a country with a monarchy royalties the payment made to the owner of a copyright, patent, or trademark, for the use thereof This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same... An advance payment, or simply an advance, is the part of a contractually due sum that is paid in advance, while the balance will only follow after receipt on the counterpart in goods or services. ... A loan is a type of debt. ...

Major label advances are generally much larger than independent labels can offer. If an independent label is able to offer an advance, it will most like be somewhere in the range of $5,000-$125,000. On the other hand, major labels are able to offer artists advances in the range of $150,000-$300,000. Instead of offering an advance, some independent labels agree to pay for a certain amount of the artist’s recording costs. This money is recoupable. There are advantages and disadvantages of an advance. If an artist gets no advance, that means they owe their record company less money, thus allowing them to earn royalties more quickly. However, since the label recoups so many costs, an artist’s advance might be the only money they are able to make for quite some time.[12]

In a contract, options are agreed upon. Options allow the label to renew their contract with the artist and release more of their albums. Options lie with the label, and the label has the choice whether or not to record more with the artist. Some artists consider this unfair because the label has the right to not distribute an artist’s project and extend their contract by one more album if they deem the music as commercially or artistically unacceptable. Record labels effectively own the artist’s product for the duration of their contract.[13] A real option is the right, but not the obligation, to undertake some business decision, typically the option to make a capital investment. ...

Independent label contracts

Many times, a deal from an independent label is quite similar to that of a major label. In cases where an independent label is distributed by a major label, the independent label itself will have to have a major-label deal. In this case, the independent label would want to be sure that their contract with their artists covers the same issues as the independent’s own contract with the major label. In other cases, independent labels offer similar contracts to major labels because they want to look more professional. An independent label that thinks it will eventually be dealing frequently with major labels will have a similar contract in order to avoid having to redraft contracts in the future. There are also plenty of cases in which independent labels have contracts that do not resemble major label contracts in any way. In general, independent labels that are not affiliated with a major label are more willing to take chances and are able to be more flexible in their deals. An independent record label is variously described as a record label operating without the funding (or outside the organizations) of the major record labels, and/or a label that subscribes to indie philosophies such as DIY and anti-corporate art. ... A contract is a legally binding exchange of promises or agreement between parties that the law will enforce. ...

Though some independent labels offer a royalty rate of 10-15% like the major labels, it is becoming increasingly more common for independent labels to offer a profit-sharing deal in which as much as 40-75% of the net profits go to the artist. In this type of contract, the net gain after all expenses have been taken out are split between the label and artist by a negotiated percentage. However, deals in this form can take longer for an artist to gain any profits since all expenses – such as manufacturing, publicity, and marketing – are also taken into account. As an independent artist becomes more popular, deals of this type are more advantageous. Profit sharing, when used as a special term, refers to various incentive plans introduced by businesses that provide direct or indirect payments to employees that depend on companys profitability in addition to employees regular salary and bonuses. ... Wikibooks has more about this subject: Marketing Look up publicity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Independent labels often rely heavily on free goods, or the records that are given away in promotion of an album. Artists do not receive royalties on merchandise that is given away for free. Additionally, since compilations made by independent labels are often given away, the artist receives no royalties. Major label compilations are more often sold than given away, and the artist does receive royalties. A compilation album is an album (music or spoken-word) featuring tracks from one or multiple recording artists, often culled from a variety of sources (such as studio albums, live albums, singles, demos and outtakes. ...


When a band goes on tour, it may or may not have the financial backing of its label. An artist receives a fixed fee or a percentage of the tickets sold by the venue owner or promoter. Touring is an expensive process. A moderate estimate of touring costs with a bus and small crew can easily reach $15,000 a week. If an artist tours with the support of their label, the expenses are all recoupable, thus potentially increasing a band’s debt. Many successful bands tour without the support of their label so that they can keep all of their touring revenue. An independent band would have more difficulty than a highly successful one in being self-sufficient on tour. A Venue is the location of an event, usually a meeting. ...


If a band or artist writes their own material, publishing can be one of the best ways to earn a profit. It is one of the few guaranteed ways to earn revenue for artists. Even touring is not a sure way to make money because it is possible that no one will attend the shows. Basic copyright law protects songwriters by giving them exclusive rights to grant or deny the reproduction, distribution, or performance of their work. The majority of a band’s publishing income comes from its mechanical and performance rights. Mechanical rights cover the reproduction of a song on a record. In the standard contract between a band and a label, the label is required by law to pay the composer a fixed rate per song simply for the right to use the composition on commercially sold recordings. The mechanical licensing rate in 2006 for the U.S. and Canada is 9.1 cents per song.[14] With the performance rights, a song’s copyright covers every time it appears on radio and television. The copyright symbol is used to give notice that a work is covered by copyright. ...

If an artist prefers to receive up-front money for their songs instead of waiting for the money to come in over time, it can choose to assign its copyright to a music publisher. The music publisher pays a cash advance for what they decide is the value of the copyright. It is common for a band to sign a copublishing deal. This means that the publisher offers the artist an advance in exchange for half the publishing income. When the advance is paid back, the music publisher retains 25% of the income. Since an artist has no guarantees whether or not their song will be popular, some may prefer to have a cash advance that guarantees them money regardless of how well the song does. A music publisher deals in the marketing and commercial exploitation of songs. ...

Genres associated with indie

Alternative rock (also called alternative music or simply alternative; known primarily in the UK as indie) is a genre of rock music that emerged in the 1980s and became widely popular in the 1990s. ... Indie rock is a subgenre of rock music often used to refer to bands that are on small independent record labels or that arent on labels at all. ... Indie rock is a subgenre of rock music often used to refer to bands that are on small independent record labels or that arent on labels at all. ... The term post-rock was coined by Simon Reynolds in issue 123 of The Wire (May 1994) to describe a sort of music using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbres and textures rather than riffs and powerchords. ... Shoegazing (also known as shoegaze or shoegazer; practitioners referred to as shoegazers) is a style of Independent (or Indie) music that emerged from the U.K. in the late 1980s, lasting until the mid 1990s, with peaking circa 1990 to 1991. ... This article is about the genre of music. ... Americana is a loose subset of American roots music, that is perhaps best defined as classic American music—ranging in style from folk, country blues, bluegrass, alternative country, rockabilly, neotraditional and roots rock. ... Dark cabaret is a music genre that can be traced back to the 1970s and is still played today. ... Downtempo is a laid-back electronic music style intended more for listening and socializing than dancing, though some releases are danceable in their own right. ... For experimental rock music, see experimental rock. ... Folk music can have a number of different meanings, including: Traditional music: The original meaning of the term folk music was synonymous with the term Traditional music; the term Traditional music was given its more specific meaning to distinguish it from the other definitions that Folk music is now considered... Garage rock is a raw form of rock and roll that enjoyed its original period of wide success in the United States and Canada, from 1963 to 1967. ... Glitch (also known as Clicks and Cuts from a representative compilation series by the German record label Mille Plateaux) is a genre of electronic music that became popular in the late 1990s with the increasing use of digital signal processing, particularly on computers. ... Hip hop is a cultural movement that began amongst urban African American youth in New York and has since spread around the world. ... It has been suggested that Chicago Industrial be merged into this article or section. ... Intelligent dance music (commonly IDM) is a genre of electronic music derived from dance music of the 1980s and early 1990s which puts an emphasis on novel processing and sequencing. ... Post punk generally refers to the particularly fertile and creative period following the initial punk rock explosion. During the first wave of punk, roughly spanning 1976-1983, bands such as The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones and The Damned began to challenge the current styles and conventions of rock... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Punk rock is an anti-establishment music movement beginning around 1976 (although precursors can be found several years earlier), exemplified and popularised by The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. ... Extreme metal is an umbrella term for the heavy metal subgenres of a more aggressive style than traditional heavy metal. ... Shibuya at night Shibuya-kei (渋谷系 Shibuya-style; also 渋谷系サウンド Shibuya-kei sound) is a variety of Japanese pop music which combines elements of jazz, fusion, traditional music, and other styles. ... Suomisaundi (sometimes called psy-fi, suomistyge, suomisoundi, forest trance or spugedelic trance) is a style of freeform psychedelic trance, originating from Finland. ... Trip hop (also known as the Bristol sound or Bristol acid rap) is a term coined by British dance magazine Mixmag, to describe DJ Shadow s hip hop instrumentals that (inspired by Organized Konfusions track Releasing Hypnotical Gases) changed-up the beat and pallet mid-cut, giving the listener... Alternative hip hop (also known as alternative rap) is a genre that is defined in greatly varying ways. ... Yé-yé is a style of pop music, popular in France in the 1960s. ...

See also

It has been suggested that DIY ethic be merged into this article or section. ... The term underground music has been applied to several artistic movements, notably to the early psychedelic movement of the mid 60s centred in Los Angeles. ... Indie music scenes are localized, independent, music-oriented communities that exist in many cities, especially in North America and the United Kingdom. ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... This article or section is not written in the formal tone expected of an encyclopedia article. ...

External links


  • Toomey, Jenny (November 15, 1999). Future Prospects for Music and Technology: Musictech’s Ben Morgan on the Paradigm Shift in Music Consumption.
  • Leyshon, Andrew, et al. (2005). "On the reproduction of the music industry after the internet" 27. 
  • An Independent’s Guide to Digital Music.
  • Hesmondhalgh, David (1999). "Indie: the institutional politics and aesthetics of a popular music genre" 13 (1). 
  • Leeds, Jeff. "Independent music on move with internet", International Herald Tribune, January 10, 2006. 
  • Pfahl, Michael (August 6, 2001). "Giving away music to make money: independent musicians on the internet" 6 (8). 
  • Mansfield, Brian. "When Free is Profitable", USA Today, May 20, 2004. 
  • Ramsay, J.T.. "Live from the Witch Trials", www.pitchforkmedia.com, April 4, 2006. 
  • Sherrard, Stephen (Retrieved April 26, 2006). Record Deals Versus Independent Releases.
  • Haverty, Neil (November 1, 2002). Arts Funding for Whom? Indie Labels Starve While Government Support Rewards Success.
  • Knab, Christopher (April 2006). Deals that Await Successful Independent Music Labels.
  • Friends, Stacey. "Independent Labels: What's the Deal?", Performer, October 2003. 
  • Friends, Stacey. "Independent Label vs. Major Label Contracts", Performer, November 2005. 
  • Ian, Janis. "The Internet Debacle: An Alternative View", Performing Songwriter, May 2002. 
  • The Money-Go-Round.

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