On October 12 a Twitter feed called I Hate Indie Rock launched itself, immediately generating conversation among music critics, who variously found it inflammatory, silly, or quite accurate.
Written anonymously, the author criticizes the independent music world and the way fans consume it. With some 2400 followers, it hasn't exactly set the world on fire, but it has ruffled feathers with tweets like "Matador is 49% owned by Beggars Group" and "It's so easy to throw your little computer phone in the garbage and just start your life all over."
Its themes are roughly anti-corporate and anti-tech, ironic for a Twitter feed but undoubtedly containing some interesting, contrarian food for thought. ("Human beings lived for thousands of years without Prozac, Oxycontin, bath salts, or Weezer.")
While some of its tweets are easily refutable (Pitchfork is not primarily "staffed by college students" for example), to counter its claim that "there are practically no truly independent record companies of any import left in the USA or UK" we got in touch with Paul Tao, co-chief of L.A.-based Iamsound Records, who is hosting something called the Independent Label Market in Silver Lake tomorrow. (Yes, Iamsound is independent, though they're distributed through an arm of Sony.)
The event will feature records, rare releases, t-shirts and other items for sale, with the founders of imprints like White Iris, Mad Decent, Hydra Head, Anticon, and Dangerbird "in the stalls directly selling to fans," Tao says.
It's fair to say he has some skin in this indie game, and so below he counters some of I Hate Indie Rock's assertions, tweet for tweet.
Tao: These are some of the tweets that confused me the most. The author seems to be fiercely independent, fiercely anti-corporate, and fiercely against the interference of money in the world of music-as-art. He or she decries Beggars Group as not "truly independent" just because it is successful, but Beggars is not owned by a major label or publicly traded company. I think the author is confusing the words "independent" and "underground." The two are not synonymous.
I'm sure Warp Records would also beg to differ with these tweets.
Tao: So any art that is funded (directly, indirectly, partially, fully or after the fact) by a corporation is not actual art? This is taking examples to an extreme, but we might as well argue whether or not the Sistine Chapel is actual art since Michelangelo was funded by the Catholic Church, far from a perfect organization. This is a silly tweet by someone who apparently sees the intersection of profit and art as a bit too black and white. If a band wants to take money from a corporation so that they can continue to make music, that's their business.
Tao: Assuming the author's good friends are referring to sex/drugs/alcohol, those friends need to learn the difference between causation and correlation.
Tao: By "most," he or she means "one" (Mexican Summer).
Tao: Yes, because alcohol companies invented the internet, file sharing and the archaic business practices of most major labels.
If bars and alcohol companies profit from the rise of touring profits, so be it. As long as bands get money, fans get to see shows and have drinks, and everyone else is happy, then what's the difference? If you really want to complain about the touring industry, how about the people who put extra fees on tickets that we all hate?
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