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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The indie music universe, part 1

I'm working on a research paper this month on the political economy of independent music, a nice aside from language politics. So, among other burning questions, I am trying to find out a) whether independent artists fare better or worse than those who sign with big labels, and why? and b) how artists perceive their options and what they see as viable options for their careers. Do artists still daydream about being signed to big labels while they pursue indie careers? What disadvantages do they face that might allow big labels to seduce them into contracts eventually?

Some websites devoted to indie music:
alternative sounds (personal blog) - a personal blog dedicated to songs, rather than to bands or genres, interesting blog idea and potentially a great way to discover a few new artists (has not been updated in a while). Actually I might add a bit more of this blogger's approach to some of my own posts in the future, but of course with the songs I have on my itunes.

indie rock cafe - a rather elaborate and professional blog site, which seems promising as a potential source of fresh new music. Appears to be current and regularly updated. Lots of mp3's to peruse, as mp3 dissemination is a primary focus on this blog.

Indiependentmusic ("A website about music stuff")- standard basic blog layout, so appears less impressive than indie rock cafe, but there's a lot of interesting stuff in here. Lots of streaming music content.

Indie Update - an independent music news blog, not as messy at the front page, so looks nice and shiny (or maybe I just like the basic gray theme). Not as many bands featured on the front page, but there's a lot more stuff buried away in this site. Of particular interest for me are the more industry oriented article-style posts, which present views on indie music and the music industry in general, though this site is a bit tough to navigate compared to some.

Obscure Sound - a visibly different mix of aesthetics compared to the other pages so far on this list, so might have a different range of sound too. (sadly, one can no more judge a band by its album art than one can judge a book by its cover.)

Boost Independent Music - mp3 music store for independent and unsigned artists, which proclaims that its mp3's are just 69 cents a piece, so cheaper than standard itunes and amazon.com prices. This site is a bit busy and seems clunky on my tiny laptop screen, so hopefully the music selection improves the shopping experience somewhat. The fact that there were so many song links by the same few folks on the top ten and recent additions sections of this site's front page bodes ill, since one would expect that a sufficiently large selection across several genres should show more diversity on these sorts of lists.

The Celtic Music Fan (personal blog) - most of the sites listed above seem to showcase more of the electronica, hip hop, and alternative rock genres, and as one might guess from my own posts, I am more of an old-timey song collector at heart, so here's a blog which highlights what is going on in Celtic music.

So, there's a lot of music going on out there, though the sheer amount of indie music 'out there' in the cyberuniverse makes finding the good ones seem a bit daunting. How can artists possibly expect fans to wade through all the blogs, mp3 shops, and other online music sources to find them? It is certainly not a scenario in which one could be expected to have complete information to make rational choices, so no doubt luck and money feature just as prominently as talent and musicality. All of the sites listed above agree that it is easier than ever to make it as an independent musician, or at least without selling out to corporate labels, but none of them seem to answer the problem of potential fans having too many options. Some folks, like the guys I follow from Celtic Thunder, have pre-made starter fan-bases from other things they are associated with. No doubt a lot of Rhydian Roberts' success has been due to his starter fan based via X-Factor, too. Without this initial boost, how could a singer, with or without a band, develop enough of a fan-base to not be out-competed for fans' attention by other artists?

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