Taylor Swift may have been invading your TV this year. But did you know she was an indie artist? Photo (CC-BY-ND) Wendy aka freshfruit.

The one thing you probably aren’t thinking while watching the Grammys is “wow, look at this amazing showcase for independent music.” (Last night, I expect you were thinking something more along the lines of, “I was supposed to get 3D glasses for this? Augh! I’m dizzy! Switch it off!”)

But keep score, and independent artists and labels are a huge part of the Grammy Award-winning roster. And with indies invading even the most mainstream of music events, that’s a strong indication of how big a part of the industry independent music is becoming. (Side note: yes, I’m aware that the definition of “indie” is murky at best. But looking at the broad trend, there’s still something here. There’s a difference between an artist self-releasing and being on RCA; examples below. In short, this may not be what most of us would call “indie,” but it’s a big shift away from the traditional role of the “major.”)

Want an example? How about “Album of the Year” Taylor Swift’s Fearless? And it’s not incidental that Taylor Swift thanked said label for allowing her to write all her own songs. (My own personal fandom of Taylor Swift ranks up there somewhere with Kanye West’s, but I think that’s worth noting.)

One of the groups keeping score at the Grammy Awards is A2IM, a not-for-profit that represents the independent music community. This year, says A2IM, some 43 awards can be considered “indie,” including the categories Pop, Rock, Alternative, Country, New Age, Jazz, Gospel, Tropical Latin, Tejano, Norteno, Bando, Americana, Bluegrass, Blues, Folk, Hawaiian, Native American, Zydeco/Cajun, World, Spoken Word, Comedy, Surround Sound, & Classical genres, and also scored for Best Recording Package.

Artists (aside from Taylor Swift) include PHOENIX, Steve Earle, and one of my long-time personal favorites, Buckwheat Zydeco. Looking over the list, I see quite a few indie selections. Rounder Records alone won Best Pop Instrumental Performance (Béla Fleck), Best Bluegrass Album (winner Steve Martin — yes, that Steve Martin — and nominee Rhonda Vincent), and two nominations for a Woody Guthrie re-issue. Rounder last year won best album of 2009 for “Raising Sand.”

Electronic music gets just one category, and that was won by Lady Gaga. (Interscope, her label, is part of Universal so, erm, definitely not indie.) But nominee The Crystal Method went their own way with Divided by Night, releasing on their own Tiny E Records. When I talked to the duo in the spring, they talked about how important it was to focus on their own creative muse rather than the demands of a major label.

Grammy Award winner Imogen Heap. Photography by Kris Krüg; (CC-BY) Pop!Tech.

Being an independent artist isn’t necessarily the right decision for every artist. Imogen Heap is signed to RCA. But being an artist who’s independently-minded, too, can be important.

I think it’s a really powerful statement that Imogen Heap won a Grammy for “Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical” for her record Ellipse. It’s rare for artists engineering their own albums to win, period, and this is a profoundly dude-dominated category, to boot. Whoever you’re signed to, you know it’s the artists who are motivated who can achieve the most. Imogen Heap’s savvy use of Twitter, her connection with her fans, and her ability to manage her own career must make the folks at RCA and Megaphonic Records very, very happy. And incidentally, even this demonstrates the way the majors themselves have changed: a lot of the majors have gone to small imprints that operate with the agility of the indie labels.

Discussion of Imogen Heap’s win on her fan forums

It’s a new world out there – even if we still have those dorky 3D glasses from the 50s.

The full list:
http://www.grammy.com/nominees

*Disclaimer: I can’t actually stand the Grammys, generally speaking. But that’s why I looked for something interesting to pull out of it, which this, to me, was. It means even at the awards ceremony that’s the greatest expression of major label power, major label power is waning. I’m sure I won’t be misunderstood, of course, that each commenter will read with great care all the nuances of what I’m saying.

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    The major/indie divide has never been all that clear. All of SAW's output was classified as "indie" (their own record company) back in the 80s, despite being the direst identikit pop one could imagine; and Kate Bush, noted for insisting upon complete artistic control from about her second album, has always been signed to that bastion of artist empowerment… er, EMI. So, yeah.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, yes, that's the major, major (pardon the pun) caveat on this story. No one knows what an indie is. But I still think you have Indie-like Entities making a pretty strong showing, plus majors with imprints that are clearly trying to emulate those indies.

    And that's just the Grammys, which inhabit a musical world most of us aren't really part of. ;)

  • CHARLIE TOMORROW

    I SEE THIS…

    I HEAR THIS…

    I THOUGHT ABOUT MUSIC …

    AND THIS EVENT HAS NOT MUCH TO DO

    WITH MUSIC….

    music is something else….

  • Ugh

    Really? Argh. You CANNOT consider The Crystal Method indie, and hardly those others either. It was far from an indie night, every award sounded like a golf tournament sponsors list. I'll define Indie for you: Has it been used in a corporate commercial on tv? Thats your divining rod. And I don't think any of these artists are excluded from that category.

    Seriously, you need to consider where the money is coming from before you can determine someone is indie, or on an "indie" label. There is corporate support for all these artists, and THAT is the definition of Major today. Requires a bit of a shift in thinking, but its reality.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Indie is a relative term.

    An artist releasing something on their own label counts, technically, as "indie." So, yes, I can consider The Crystal Method indie, because they *released their work on their own label.*

    As for the "corporate support" argument, look, yes, these are successful artists who won Grammy Awards. They have commercial success that may, arguably, make them less culturally independent or ground-breaking.

    But that's my point: if the compass is pointed toward more independent business models at the Grammys — which is about as massively commercial and mainstream as an event can get — that means something.

  • BPT

    @Ugh: Hear, hear!

  • yoyoman

    @ Ugh : No, licensing one of your song to some corprorate tv commercial doesn't make you a Major label. It's just an additionnal source of income, and with piracy ramping up, licensing and synching is becoming one of the only ways to survive for a small act.

    Yes the definition of indie is kinda vague now, but i would define it personnaly as a small structure where the artist has as much artistic control on his work as possible, if not total control.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Jeez, is this going to be followed by several dozen more of these comments?

    Anyone who thinks I was advocating the musical content of the Grammys as the pinnacle of musical taste DIDN'T READ WHAT I WROTE.

    It's relative. It's "indie" as in, I signed to a label that isn't owned by Universal or I released on my own label.

    And incidentally, if said person goes and gets their music in a golf commercial, odds are they may get a BIGGER CUT of said golf commercial. ;) So, uh, I'm not buying most of the albums on that awards list, but more power to them.

  • BPT

    I'm just not sure you can have commercial mainstream support and be "indie." "Indie" means independent. If you have outside support from corporations, you are no longer independent. You are now dependent.

    I think what you really mean to point out, Peter, is that the indie concept is being/has been colonized by corporate interests, even without major label involvement. Maybe we can compare this to "alternative" artists in the 90s who basically became mainstream major label players while somehow retaining the "alternative" signifier.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yeah, that's the fundamental problem, I know. It's a loaded term. But you have to look at it from the other way — look at the center of gravity in the industry itself. It hasn't shifted to what most of the rest of us would consider truly indie — not if you use the Grammys as the yardstick, of course — but it has shifted away from majors.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Let's say "non-major."

    Agreed? ;)

  • BPT

    Oh, and sorry, I meant to point out that perhaps the involvement of a major label, in terms of being the mark of mainstream commercial interest, is being de-emphasized, and may in fact no longer be important.

  • http://bluegreengold.net bluegreengold

    @yoyoman

    Someone who licenses music for a corporate commercial may maintain their independence, but they're still a shill.

  • ifthenwhy

    "What's with all these awards? They're always giving out awards. Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler. "

    Woody Allen

  • Ugh again

    I think the greying of what is really "corporate" is the problem. It's not anyone here, it's a grander problem than any of us. "Major" means corporate sponsored. There have always been varied levels of control inside this system, but that is NO DIFFERENT than corporate sponsored "non-Major" music. The trappings are the exact same, and the "facade" of originality and control (erhem, Taylor Swift) is not as black and white, but exists nonetheless.

    Just because Taylor Swift got the "opportunity" to write her own tracks, doesn't mean that those tracks are either indie, original, new, different, or moving things forward. In fact, if any of those qualities had existed in her music, she probably would not have been on stage last night. That's the reality of corporate music. You can do everything yourself, if you censor yourself before the corporate handlers get a chance. How very indie!!!

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Right, but it's not a facade. I've interviewed artists at this level of commercialism, and they have a different experience on an independent label or their own label than they had with the majors. Period.

    There's a difference.

    Now, maybe that's the difference between McDonald's Big Mac and the Veggie Burger, rather than the difference between the Big Mac and your local food co-op (yum), but it's still worth talking about.

  • BPT

    @Ugh again: Hear, hear again!

  • http://lame.lame.com Indell

    Pfffft. The grammy's are hardly worth reporting on. Indie shmindie. A term about as meaningless as 'democrat'.

    The imogen heap award says it all to me. Not to take away from her, but she's got more skill in the PR department than anything else. If she didn't spend so much time doing her PR routine, she wouldn't be getting the award. An award that's supposed to be given on the grounds of musical/technical prowess – not fashion

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Right, but consider this the end of the spectrum — a small shift away from majors *in the Grammys* I think means tectonic change everywhere else.

    And yes, the Grammys struggle for relevance to most music fans. Look at electronic/dance music according to the Grammys – that list was almost unrecognizable. I suspect the same is true for most of those genres, because the Grammys, for all their sub-categorization, can't keep up with the fragmentation (or diversification, depending on how you look at it) of musical taste.

  • John

    What's this thing called "The Grammys"? I'm not familiar with it.

    I know there was some thing in the 80s that people actually cared about, called "The Grammys". I assume the subject of this post is something unrelated.

  • Ugh again

    I love this debate, so don't read my comments as negative…

    But I'm SURE these artists prefer being indie to having A&R doing their dirtiest to get what the label wants. But if an artist has been on a Major label, and built a following (or had one bought for them, as the case may be) then who gives a shit which they prefer? They could probably turd on tape and they would still have these loyal followers to call it gold. Crystal Method comes to mind, they were turd on tape from the start.

    So, yes, when it seems like the money is just being thrown at them, and they don't have someone punching their art in the face, I'm SURE these artists absolutely love the perceived freedom. The point is, they have given up their real freedom before even joining onto those Majors. Now the A&R guy is in their brains, and in their band discussions, not as a man with a face, but as a nebulous topic of discussion that eventually leads back to "feed the masses who fed us before". And how best to do that? stick to the formula. That's why you won't see Crystal Method making many dubstep records. (now they'll release one and make me eat my words… It will suck though, count on it.)

  • Main Stream Hater

    “The Grammy Awards” are useless except for these "talented" individuals to give each other a high 5 for duping the public into thinking what they do is somehow considered "Music" Face it, main stream Music has reeked for years. Take back your brains and ears and souls and ignore these buffoons. Make your own Music and support others doing the same.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Ugh again: Well, of course; I think successful artists are perfectly happy doing what makes them successful. Imogen Heap was perfectly happy building a following on a major, which is funny, as many people use her as an example of an artist of the future.

    So, you get a correlative effect here, but no sense of causation. Why are more albums on so-called "indie" labels? Does it even matter? I think you'd have to look more specifically at these artists and what it meant. It's a trend worth noting, but yes, out of context it isn't terribly meaningful beyond that.

  • Ugh again

    Whats meaningful is the deception of the consumer. They are being sold a "diy" label to a corporate product. Imogen heap is just another "on the heap" in that sense. These artists are essentially trying to convince the people who aren't their fans yet, that they are "indie" enough to pay attention to. The ones that are already their fans will love it, regardless. Imogen has done a remarkably good job of that. They are packaging their Major label product and sound with a "we did it ourselves" sticker, and I think that is sort of disgusting.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, that's not entirely fair. Imogen aside, take some of the Rounder folks — that happened to work well on that label. Whether it's a tiny netlabel, their own label, or Sony Classical, I think smart artists work with labels that work well for them. (soon to follow: story submitted to CDM on how netlabels could do a better job)

  • lematt

    bloody David Guetta got an award…

    really.

    what about "create digital music" Peter ?

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    Indell said: "Not to take away from her, but she’s got more skill in the PR department than anything else."

    I'd love to know how in hell that statement is supposed to not take away from her. But, yeah, years of classical training in several instruments, writing songs since she was a kid, producing and engineering her own output and slogging her guts out on the music business since she came of age? Pfft, anyone can do that, that doesn't mean a thing, her success is just down to fashion…

    A reminder: your arse is for sitting on, not for talking out of.

  • http://live.nwrecords.com gbsr

    really not much going on the world of electronic music, is there?

  • CPRoth

    Interesting thread, despite the arguments over which flavor of ice cream everyone likes…

    Having been signed to both indie and major labels, I can perhaps shed some light on this.

    The big thing the majors still have in their arsenal (tho technology is rapidly changing this) is Distribution and Promotion, particularly at radio. The indies handle this a bit differently, or at least until something in the catalog becomes a hit. And think (tho I don't wanna speak for him) that's what Peter's premise is. And again, having been thru these things, I find it fascinating. Because whatever IT is, IT will become the new model of how music is traded.

    But Jeez oh man people, in an age where the actual audience for music thinks it deserves it for free, where the idea of making any kind of dough FROM any kind of recording contract directly is a fantasy…must we really be mad at the kid who records a techno track that someone at CORP.INC hears and licenses the thing for a network ad that puts $20K in said kid's pocket?

    Lemme me put it another way:

    Many years ago my brother (an excellent guitarist and singer) met the notorious Morris Levy (the guy Heshy on The Sopranos was based on). When Mo heard what my bro did, the first thing he asked was "Hey kid, what are you gonna do with your publishing?" He replied "Well, with all due respect Sir, I was trying to hang onto it for a while"

    Without missing a beat, Mo said "Kid, you might as well sign it to me now, I'm just gonna end up with it anyway."

  • Jason

    I don't disagree with any of you, the Grammys are irrelevant, the business models that these artist have embraced are equally shallow in terms of art as the major labels… but hey, you are talking about as mainstream as it gets.

    And guess what? There probably aren't 100 million other people in the world who can sit through whatever mad man pocket of music it is that inspires you… on a grand scale people love bland predictable pap… it's that way with movies and TV too.. hell, it's even that way with food.

    But I do think that its interesting that those artists embracing similar goals as the majors are moving on to other business models the same way that consumers are moving on to other modes of consumption… the majors iron grip on the whole industry is fading to the point that their involvement doesn't even further the goals of people looking for what only the majors could bring 5 to 10 years ago. It's just another nail in the coffin…

    yay

  • Ugh again

    Fear not, everyone, I'm hard at work on the Electronic Music Hall of Fame. We will honor both the mainstream and the mundane, and even the musically worthwhile. Great discussion, and I'm serious about the Hall of Fame.

  • Charlie L

    Just because you get your song on TV does not make you a sellout. My band got a song on a TV show, and we weren't even signed…I mean our drummers dad was one of the head writers. I guess It's all about making connections …and nepotism!

  • Keats handwriting

    Cool out guys- just b/c Peter does a post about the Grammys, doesn't mean he's going John Mayer on us.

    I'd like to say thank you Peter for being courageous enough to recognize that the "indie" labels are becoming more and more important- even in something as mainstream as the Grammys.

    I don't why putting your music over a uber-trendy car commercial makes you a cheap huckster, used car salesman. Great artists, musicians and thinkers have been 'selling out' (read: eating ) for kings, churches and common people for as long as there has been art.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    You say "selling out," I say "selling." ;)

    But, uh, yes, I'm not personally going pop yet. (actually, a few of my avant garde-composing friends and I in grad school used to get together and sing Britney Spears tunes, so you never know… maybe too much atonal music will do that to you.)

  • zero ref

    @ Ugh again

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about the A&R man being in the brains of artists now. 'Indie,' like other genre terms 'grunge,' 'jazz,' and 'hip-hop' (to name a few) encompassed both an ethics, a musical style, and (in this case) a means of production. Peter is talking, intelligently so, about the means of production, but I agree its dangerous to focus on the term without understanding just how its lost force, been co-opted, and is now a deceptive linguistic tool.

    As useful as genre's and terms can be, in the capitalist/corporatist entertainment (and otherwise) system we have, any identity is very dangerous as it can be immediately swallowed and re-packaged by the dollars that be.

    The whole idea behind independent distribution and such (as I understand it) was to guarantee artistic freedom. Musicians that self-censor and aim for radio-friendly sounds (which is NOT a bash against pop music) impoverish our culture as much as any major label.

  • s ford

    I think Lady Gaga makes some cracking tunes and stuff but it is a bit sad that she is winning an award for electronic music. From what I have heard though electronic music isn't as popular in the States as it is in some of Europe, maybe her award is a reflection of that…..

  • http://www.badmindtime.com SkyRon™

    Hey, yeah, I agree with Charlie Tomorrow – you can parse out 'indie' and various genres all you like, but if you're an avant-gardenia blooming on the internet and not really expecting to make a dime off your work ( like myself), what relevance do the grammys possess?

    The digital age makes'distribution/reproduction tech' available to all and 'vetting' available to none (unless you're in the 'popular' genres). Oops, sorry for the cynicism!

    But Pink as a wet, spinning, singing spectacle, I think we can all agree, was super awesome!!! (I guess that's what I was really gettin' at!)

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    Atonal music? Isn't that Britney Spears pre-autotune?

  • Keats handwriting

    @s ford

    Yes, Lady Gaga is about as electronic as the radio gets in the States.

    Though, Justice won a Grammy for his remix of MGMT's Electric Feel. That's one of my fav songs that's made it big lately, so I'm definitely happy about that.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    In fairness, Gaga was dominant on the UK and European charts. So it's not so much that Gaga won as the fact that electronic music is generally not as prominent on the charts radar.

    Gaga's chart numbers are pretty much international in nature.

    What's interesting to me about US electronic music is that, while it's absent from the mainstream, there's a big niche taste for it. It's not something that lacks an audience, not at all.

    You have to figure you now have audiences that don't even participate in the media in which these metrics are based. Things like SongScan numbers are pretty comprehensive, but there are other places where you're just not getting the whole story. And you can often do better with a smaller, passionate audience than a big, mass-media audience — see piracy discussion above.

  • PPthaK!

    yawn.

  • Machines

    Pfft. The guys making the argument that "indie" isn't "indie" are probably the same guys who stop listening to music they love because they now know other people who listen to it.

    All I keep reading in these comments is that any form of making money on your music outside of selling CDs out of the trunk of your car or playing some dive bar with 4 people in it is "selling out." I'm with Peter. You call it "selling out," I call it "selling."

    You don't have to be "unpopular" to be independent. A musician who becomes successful on their own accord (i.e., no major label support) should be applauded, not burned at the stake as you guys here are so eager to do.

    We've applauded Trent Reznor, Radiohead and others here for doing innovative and independent things. Yet we never see them attacked for being sellouts even though the only reason they're able to reach the markets they do is because of the major label backing they had earlier in their careers. Why is it a crime to give Taylor Swift a nod for being able to write music she likes, regardless of whether or not you personally think it's worthy of being called groundbreaking.

    I heard something really great on public radio today. A comment from one of the DJ's. She was talking about a band she had just played and said she liked it so much because you can hear that the guys in the band are just having fun. To me, that's what good music is all about. People having fun and being able to support themselves doing it. Whether or not you're independent is all about how much of the take you get to keep.

    I think you should all be debating the term groundbreaking, not independent.

    Now, go put your flannel shirts and horn-rimmed glasses back on ;)

  • esol esek

    I dont care whether someone sells through a major or an indie label whatever that is. What matters it he music. For anyone to claim that a vocal hack like Taylor Swift is deserving of any awards, let alone best of awards, shows the utter corruption of a music biz that celebrates a girl who is basically a skin cream model. I wouldn't care if she was hot if she was good, but she's terrible.

    People are so lost in a fog of sampling that they think they desreve applause just for picking up an instrument and writing a song.

    THe standard used to be that you were amazing, not just tolerable, and TS is not even tolerable.

    The Grammys have always been terrible. I doubt they ever gave an award to Jimi Hendrix or the Clash or Metallica or any cutting edge electronic act until they were forced to.

    The Grammys are a spectacle by agents for agents and sponsors. Taylor Swift will be gone in two years, for sure. One more forgettable award. Glad Kings of Leon got a nod. They actually deserve it.

  • Aug

    the grammys were on? when?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, while that topic really *doesn't* belong on CDM, I sure thought about the fact that Taylor Swift was the winning artist. I mean, imagine if the most popular movies of the year won all the Oscars – every single time. For all the complaints you could have about the Academy Awards, at least you get the sense that the results attempt to represent the best of the industry. Indiana Jones and Hancock were both top-grossing movies in 2008. I'm sure people enjoyed watching them. I'm sure they bought popcorn. They didn't win Oscar for Best Picture, because that wouldn't make sense.

    So there's a disconnect, even as mainstream award shows go. That's nothing against any of the artists who were there, or any of those that were ignored. But I do agree that this earns people's ire for a reason.

  • Parker

    The real indie winner was undoubtedly Phoenix, whose narrative for their winning album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, absolutely perfectly encompasses the indie spirit and drive.

    Speaking of Hawaiian, my guitar teacher, Jeff Peterson, was one of the recipients of the Grammy for that category!

  • David Prouty

    Back when hardly anyone in the USA was listening to anything less than mainstream I was all about the indie and it was harder to get indie because there wasn't an internet back then. Later it was really great listening to mod files on an Amiga that some chap did in his bedroom and I was all about the Indie.

    But you know what ….. I don't care what any of you say Imogen Heap is a great artist and fairly handy in the studio … John Mayer isn't half bad and well Taylor Swift has pretty song or two … and if you could, you would also sell your music. Now having said that I'm going back to work on my self produced album cause this is a waste of time and your a bunch of knowitalls.

  • http://humanworkshop.com Durk

    seems like people don't consider an artist "indie" if they make more money than they do…

    The music industry is changing, and the Grammy's ios the last place you will see it. So its a great sign the shift even entered the grammy domain.

    Nice article

  • s ford

    @ Peter Kirn

    Yes, Gaga is very popular in the UK but there is no way anyone would ever classify her in the UK as 'Electronic' music. Electronic music here is often part of the charts and mainstream award ceremonies. Eg the UK's equivalent of the Grammy's in 2000, for best video there was Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and Aphex Twin as the nominees. That was a byegone era mind!

    It's good that Electronic music is a niche thing in the states though. Electronic music usually has it's peaks and troughs, and it's chart impact coincides with those. That usually has the greatest impact on awards. Awards rarely ever achieve artistic achievement.

  • Geoff

    Indie is not a 'relative' term, it stands for independent (as in, released by independent record labels) and has been completely perverted by major labels seeking to hide the means of production by setting up subsidiaries posing as indies in order to market music where street cred is important.

    Imogen Heap – as you said RCA. Who writes the songs makes no difference – Phil Collins wrote his own songs, and no-one calls him indie.

    Phoenix- on V2 records, a subsidiary of Virgin set up by Branson and now owned by UMG.

    Taylor Swift – Big Machine, distributed by UMG, and Swift herself was 'developed' as an artist during her time at Sony.

    Buckwheat Zydeco on Island, now part of UMG.

    The Crystal Method, Steve Earle, Bela Fleck and Steve Martin are the only 'indie' artists mentioned. It's certainly getting harder to use the term, with more independent labels arranging distribution deals with the majors following the collapse of a number of indie distributors.

  • BARF

    I feel like I'm back in high school.

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com john k

    quickie::: electronic music is not absent from american charts – the vast majority of hiphop and pop is electronic music.

    i would guess that most music pop stars are not remotely sell-outs because they are doing exactly what they wanted to do, playing music that they like.

    Blackeyed Peas???? uh, obviously hype/artifice/marketing with nothing resembling what most readers here would probably call substance (or "talent"). however, if their goal was to create a popular money-making juggernaut, then they totally achieved what they wanted to do.

    most truly "independent" creative types will never be successful, for several reasons: there is not a popular audience for what they're doing, their main focus is on creating (they might not ever even share what they're doing with other human beings!), they have a moral aversion to capitalist culture (and i'm sure there's more reasons i can't think of and feel free to elaborate and expand)

    were the Grammy's EVER anything but an exercise in marketing and self-adulation??

    the market has spoken and we are not it!

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com Taylor Swift

    i remain amazed that she (TS) can be at the pinnacle of the recording industry as a singer, and yet she can't even sing in tune –.. THAT is pathetic and offensive, and that's why i personally hate "the music industry"

    the mediocrity in content (in a popular artform) is to be expected, but the mediocrity in talent is inexcusable, especially when there are so many actually talented people dying to get into the industry

  • Siddhu

    Ahhhh Lady Gaga is electronic!?

    What does that make Villalobos, Hawtins, Daft Punk, Kevin Saunderson, Carl Craig, Laurent Garnier, John Digweed, etc.??

  • zero ref

    @Machines

    I can't speak for others, but my own critique is more artistic in nature. Like you said, Trent Reznor and Radiohead are lauded not just for being independent, but innovative as well.

    I think its important to acknowledge that the grammys, along with much of the music business (which helps to form popular taste as much as it caters to it) very rarely take musical or artistic ingenuity, expression, innovation, or plain old skill into account.

    Music as mindless entertainment has its place, but so does music as a means of human expression and exploration. Yeah its really, really hard to make a living as a musician, and any kind of success in that endeavor is an achievement, but you can't use that as a fig leaf for aesthetic blandness.

  • http://www.halostereo.com Andrew

    No, Taylor Swift cannot sing on pitch…I agree it is pathetic, especially when you think of all the people dying to be heard that can sing well AND are probably just as attractive (shouldn't matter, but it does)!

    I'm in an indie (not so much the indie "sound" but in every other sense of the word, we do EVERY-FUCKING-THING ourselves) band.

    We license our music whenever we can and we've had a bit of small success on A&E and even a CBS placement. It has generated a little bit of income for us. However, all of us work day jobs, the band doesn't make nearly enough money to support all 4 of us. They band *occasionally* makes enough money to sustain itself…mostly we sustain it out of pocket.

    All that to say, if we got the opportunity to license a song to a commercial for big bucks (or even small bucks), you can bet your left testicle we'd take it! Anyone who says such a band is a "sellout" or a "shill" because they would, has absolutely no fucking clue what it means to be a struggling independent artist and obviously has never lived it!!! It's easy to talk artistic ethics when you're an accountant or something.

  • Machines

    @zero ref:

    I completely agree. I wasn't trying to make excuses for the aesthetic blandness at all. I would argue that just about everything that was represented at the Grammys was crap, save for a couple of artists here and there. I saw the winners list and it was just like any other year. Everything you would expect, but not want.

  • tonnu

    indie, as a musical genre, is easy to identify if you actually listen to them

    it has nothing to do with how independent their working method is (maybe in the beginning) as actually many of the indie artists have now gone mainstream esp. with the advent of "teenage-soaps-with-nice-indie-music" like the OC and, more surprisingly, twilight movie part II

    whatever, the demarcation of indie is a difference in aesthetics and style

    just compare these two bands:

    owlcity and postal service

    the music is almost identical, but owlcity is certainly not indie

    q.e.d

  • Jeremy Biggs

    As an addendum to this, Billie Ray Martin has just released some free tracks on Mininova and written about this on Hospital magazine / The Wire this month talking about the politics of giving away music for free and talking about revenue from licensing etc..

    It's nice to see mainstream artists accepting that torrents / joe public are not the enemy…

    Peter you should hit her up for an article?

    http://www.billieraymartin.com/

    http://www.mininova.org/tor/3190402

  • http://www.robtronik.com Robtronik

    "I feel like I’m back in high school."

    +1

    lol, agreed.

  • http://www.bluegreengold.net bluegreengold

    All musicians who are not already financially independent are dependent on others. The question is who should they be dependent on.

    I have ethical qualms with licensing music to promote something that I don't personally support.

    I also don't believe that it's best to demand that musicians make their money by touring. It's grueling and sleazy way to barely survive, and not conducive to musicians developing themselves fully either as artists or humans.

    What would be best both for the musicians and fans would be to make the dependency relationship be directly between them. This will happen only if fans support musicians by buying music from the artists.

    Many have noticed, that the masses no longer believe they should have to pay for music. This trend may not be reversible, however I do believe that there are enough idealistic music lovers out there that would be willing to directly support the artists they enjoy. If a few thousand people each paid $30 a year to the artists they enjoy, it would be enough to support a decent quality of life for musicians and allow them to devote their time to developing their art to their greatest potential.

  • http://www.sliptide.com/ Sean

    It’s all about how musicians relate to their business model which defines their ‘status’ as created by the consumer culture in which your art exists.

    If you wanted to make money, then “the arts” aren’t for you.

  • Robert Nights

    “I feel like I’m back in high school.”

    +1

  • Batarang

    Didn't read all the comments yet, but here's my initial reaction:

    1) Indie or major doesn't matter so much if its good music.

    2) Until I see every one of those artist's contracts, I'm not really in a position to label them "indie". For all I know, there were some contributing artists to Swift's album that were paid lots of money in return for lack of credit. Remember, even Kanye West did ghostwriting. Remember Rob and Fab? What about the Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill beefs?

    3) To be at the Grammys, more than likely you've got to have "major distribution" even if you're not on a "major label".

    4) Imogen Heap's album was good, not great. The engineering was good as well, but deserving of an award of any kind…even a Grammy? Nah, I can't go for that. Just another instance of popularity and marketing winning out (isn't this what the Grammys are all about?). Can't wait to see what she does on her next album though…I like a lot of what she has to say and the fact that she is more open about her creative processes.

  • zenzen

    “I feel like I’m back in high school.”

    +2!

    But the beauty of no longer being in high school is that I no longer make music JUST to get laid or to make money…

  • William

    Interesting, i do personally, however, think that the 'indie' tag's rising popularity is merely just a new generation of record label execs etc, cottoning on to what is a new trend that can be marketed to a vast range of people, so called 'indie kids' can be pleased that their 'scene' has made it big, while other kids can now revel in the fact they are into this 'cool' and 'edgy' new genre of music, while everyone else can hum along, coz nobodies noticed that the music is nothing special.

    it's like 50Cent, they managed to market him to teenagers as this tuff gun toting gangsta, while all the parents thought he was pretty harmless coz he rapped slow and his beats weren't very harsh.

    I don't believe there is a shift away from the corporation of old, i think the way that the corporation is exerting it's power and influence is just shifting.

  • http://www.bing.com/ Misty

    What's it take to become a sublime epxonduer of prose like yourself?