Recently a friend and I were talking about how brilliant The Clash were. Those guys made music that was smart, tough, and constantly new. The Clash are an example of a band that held its artistic ground while fighting against a rigid music industry and a stifling society.
To me, it seems that rebellious artistic spirit is harder to find in today’s music. In many ways, the musicians finally won. The music industry is no longer overpowered by a few large record companies. Most of the money is still there with those companies, but today we see musicians making their careers work as independent artists. Being indy wasn’t as viable a generation ago.
Being indy means that the musician is her own tour manager, producer, public relations department, and stage designer. OK, not always. Many indies hire a great team to handle those business matters. In any case, being an independent artist means you aren’t fighting someone else for creative control. It means you’re not fighting someone to get more money. It means you are the one trying to make some money while putting together some good music.
When I read blogs and articles for songwriters and indy musicians, it seems that the most popular topics are promotion and marketing. How to use social media, how to bring the crowds to your gigs, how to woo them to your merch table once they’re at the gig. I guess a lot of people are more interested in having the baddest email list around rather than writing the baddest songs around. That trend is logical–musicians more than ever need to have skill and savvy to put together a tour or a radio promotion campaign. But sometimes reading article after article about business strategies and kick-starter campaigns leaves me longing for someone to write about the music itself.
I imagine a restaurant that has a great location and ad campaign, but the food is a mediocre afterthought. Then I imagine a restaurant that has fabulous food but is tucked away in a quiet spot that doesn’t get much notice. I’d rather be that uncelebrated chef with an unshakable vision and passion for his food and his customers. Hopefully there’s still room out there in music for the wonderful unknowns to have a little space for themselves.