Indie music: Is it only for hipsters?

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Many people believe that “indie music” is nothing more than what is contained on a hipster’s iPod; however, this idea is not how this genre of music originated.

“Indie music” is the shortened term for independent music. This means that the artists who are classified as “indie” have not signed with music conglomerates but with record labels that are independent of the mainstream music world.

A college student “going all out” as a hipster for his Halloween costume. (Photo by Matt-Richards on Flickr)

Chelsea Wilson, the creative director for Red Cardigan Records, said independent releases make up about 30 percent of the music market. The other 70 percent is released by the “Big Four” labels or their subsidiaries. The Big Four include Universal, Sony, Warner Brothers and EMI.

“There’s definitely a misconception about indie music,” Wilson said. “I think this comes from the idea of ‘indie scene’ culture, which in my experience consists of twenty-something, Urban Outfitter-clad, hipster followers of unknown bands. People have the idea that this is all indie music is.”

Wilson mentioned that indie is not genre specific. In reality, any genre of music can be represented by an independent label. More specifically, indie music can be classified into genres such as indie-pop, indie-rock or indie-folk so long as it is being produced independently.

Craig Andrus, a pre-management major at BYU, said he believes indie music is something that is not influenced by the public.

“Indie music is something that contains and evokes more emotion than mainstream music,” Andrus said. “The artists can focus more on what they feel is important rather than worry about the label.”

Although Andrus enjoys listening to indie music, he also wouldn’t shy away from listening to mainstream music either. He said he still prefers a mix between the two.

Ezequiel Perdomo, from Yellowknife, Canada, blogged about indie music for two years. Although he does not represent an independent label, he considers himself to be an avid follower of independently made music.

“Traditionally, this meant artists were not signed to a music label and self-released all of their records,” Perdomo said. “The spirit of indie became so well-spread between some subcultures that it came to be known as a music genre and gave birth to the infamous hipsters of today.”

Perdomo mentioned that indie music, along with its affiliated subculture, is something he finds interesting. He said indie rock was the first big thing in university radio stations that really resonated with college-aged kids and that demographic. He also said that some of the most notable bands at the inception of indie music included Saves the Day, The Get Up Kids and Death Cab for Cutie in its early years.

“As indie rock began to grow, it took on other forms and other genres of music began to be explored through that moniker too,” Perdomo said. “I think we are starting to see a lot of changes in the independent music scene. In fact, a lot of music that is considered indie isn’t truly indie at all.”

While independent music provides the ability for a producer to work closely with a musician, there are pros and cons that exist between the labels. Wilson mentioned that many artists start out independently and get picked up by a larger record company.

“The big labels have the power and money to market their clients in a big way,” Wilson said. “(They can) send them out on major tours opening for huge names or promoting their albums and getting copies in every Target across America.”

Wilson mentioned that the benefit of working with independent labels, such as Red Cardigan, is that they keep the roster small enough to focus on each artist through every step of the process.

“It’s a small group of people making the decisions, setting goals and deadlines,” Wilson said. “The hard thing about being independent is financing projects. For us at Red Cardigan, a lot of the satisfaction comes from working with and developing these artists from the very start and then through every stage of their careers.”

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