Issuu on Google+

Indie Music A Case Study in Innovation Rebecca Horton DMGT 702 | Spring 2012


Independence means not having to answer to anyone, really-that’s what it means in my mind.1 -Geoff Travis, founder and director of Rough Trade Records

1 As cited by Robert King. How Soon is Now: The Madmen and Mavericks who made Independent Music: 1975-2005 (Faber and Faber: 2012), Digital release.


Table of ContenTs Why Study Indie Music?

6

Understanding Innovation

10

The Backdrop: Indies Versus Majors

16

Diffusion Over Time

24

Analysis of the Innovation

48

Conclusion

54

Sources

60


6 6


Why Study Indie ?

7 7


8 8


The independent music scene emerged in the late 1950s 1960s and quickly became a vanguard for do-it-yourself, homegrown creative work. While the term indie has lost much of its orginal significance, it once stood for the underground, emergent musicmusician, emergent scene, i.e.i.e. those the musician musicianswho whoexisted existed outside the context outside the confines of traditional of traditional record labels. record Since labels.then, Sinceindepenthen, dent music’s transformation independent music’s transformation of the music of theindustry music industry has served as a served has boilerplate as a boilerplate for creatives foracross creatives a multitude across a multitude of industries. of Today, the term industries. Today, indie the is term ubiquitous indie is ubiquitous and the power andof thethe power independent of the independent entrepreneur entrepreneur can be easily is easily viewed observable in art, fashion, in art, film, publishing, fashion, film, publishing, design, and design, business and business at large. at large.

9 9


10 10


understanding innovation

11 11


12 12


Before The independent unpackingmusic indie music’s scene emerged role as an in innovation, the late 1960s it isand quickly to critical became defineaavanguard few termsfor that do-it-yourself, will be usefulhomegrown for framing creative the rest of work. thisWhile discussion. the term When indie many has people lost much of think of itsof orginal indie music, significance, they might it once not stood consider for it the anunderground, innovation. emergent musicbyscene, However, takingi.e. a broader-than-usual those musicians wholook existed at the outside notion theinnovation, of context of traditional it is easy torecord understand labels.why Since indie then, music independent music’s qualifies as such. transformation of the music industry has served as a boilerplate for creatives across a multitude of industries. Today, the term indie is ubiquitous and the power of the independent entrepreneur can be easily viewed in art, fashion, film, publishing, design, and business at large.

13 13


14 14


An innovation The independent is an music input scene thatemerged functions inas the a lever late 1960s of change and quicklyabecame within system.aThis vanguard input for cando-it-yourself, be an object, ahomegrown service, a creative work. behavior, or even While a way theofterm thinking. indie has Critical lost to much thisof definition, its orginal significance, however, is the fact that it once onestood or more for adopters the underground, of the emergent music scene, innovation must view i.e. those it as new musicians or different who existed compared outside to what the context existed before of its traditional introduction. record1 labels. Since then, independent music’s transformation of the music industry has served as Building a boilerplate upon this for understanding creatives acrossofa multitude innovation,ofone industries. can Today, view technology the term indie through is ubiquitous a broader and lens the as well. power Forofthe the independent purposes ofentrepreneur this discussion, cantechnology be easily viewed is not ain thing art,or fashion, an film, outcome; publishing, rather, itdesign, is a “process and business of development,” at large. a “scene of struggle,” from which outcomes emerge.2 1 Everett Rogers. Diffusion of Innovations. 5th ed. Free Press: 2003. and John Law “Technology and Heterogeneous Engineering,” MIT Press (1986): 111-134. 2 Andrew Feenberg. “The Critical Theory of Technology.” Capitalism Nature Socialism (1990): 17-45. 15

15


16 16


The Backdrop: Indies versus the majors

17 17


18 18


Contrary The independent to current music definitions scene emerged of the term in the “indie,� late 1960s whichand quickly often refer became to a particular a vanguardmusic for do-it-yourself, style or genre,homegrown indie music creative began aswork. a veryWhile different the term phenomena. indie has Inlost order much to understand of its orginal how indie significance, music emerged it once and stood diffused for the as underground, an innovationemerthat gent music spread across scene, the music i.e. those industry musicians and into whomainstream existed outside the context culture, one of must traditional first understand record labels. whereSince it came then, from. independent music’s transformation of the music industry has served as a boilerplate for creatives across a multitude of industries. Today, the term indie is ubiquitous and the power of the independent entrepreneur can be easily viewed in art, fashion, film, publishing, design, and business at large.

19 19


20 20


Priorindependent The to the 1950s, music major scene record emerged labels held in thea late powergrip 1960sover and quickly the music became industry, a vanguard controlling for do-it-yourself, both the production homegrown and creative work. distribution ofWhile music.the Four term major indie record has lost companies, much of RCA its Vicorginal tor, Columbia, significance, Decca,itand onceCapitol, stood for dominated the underground, the industry, emergent music resulting inscene, a “generally i.e. those homogenous musiciansand whostandardized existed outside the context popular music” of traditional scene.1 Under record thislabels. leadership Since structure, then, indepenit was dent difficult, music’s if not transformation impossible, forofthe theindividual music industry musician hasto served have as much a boilerplate influence for overcreatives the industry acrossora the multitude listening of populace industries. Today, becausethe heterm had to indie go through is ubiquitous the majors and the in power order to of the independent distribute his entrepreneur music. can be easily viewed in art, fashion, film, publishing, design, and business at large.

1 Paul Lopes. “Innovation and Diversity in the Popular Music Industry: 1969 to 1990.” American Sociological Review, v. 57, no. 1 (1992): 56-57. 21

21


At the beginning of the 1950s, a shift began whereby new means for recording and distributing music enabled indie, i.e. independent, bands to get their music to the masses while sidestepping the majors. Three main factors contributed to the beginning of this shift: the emergence of the “unbreakable” vinyl disc that replaced the “capital-intensive logistics” of music production; the invention of the magnetophone, which allowed musicians to record in their garages; and the rise of the independent radio station thanks to new licensing regulations by the FCC.1 With indie labels as a new player in the marketplace, musicians could now function untethered by the majors, free to produce and distribute music as they pleased. However, as the next few pages will demonstrate, the music industry shifted gradually into the newfound freedoms of producing and selling independently. For many years to come, musicians still depended heavily on the distribution networks of major labels to promote and sell their recordings. 1 Peter Tschmuck. “How Creative Are the Creative Industries? A Case of the Music Industry.” The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, 33 (2003): 133 22

22


The independent music scene emerged in the late 1960s and quickly became a vanguard for do-it-yourself, homegrown creative work. While the term indie has lost much of its orginal significance, it once stood for the underground, emergent music scene, i.e. those musicians who existed outside the context of traditional record labels. Since then, independent music’s transformation of the music industry has served as a boilerplate for creatives across a multitude of industries. Today, the term indie is ubiquitous and the power of the independent entrepreneur can be easily viewed in art, fashion, film, publishing, design, and business at large.

23 23


24 24


Diffusion over time

25 25


Diffusion of Innovations Model

Early Adopters

Early Majority

Late Majority

Innovators

26 26

Laggards


Drawing The independent upon themusic diffusion sceneofemerged innovations in the model late 1960s developed and quickly by Everett became Rogers, a vanguard this section for do-it-yourself, will document homegrown the diffusion creative of the indie work. scene While as itthe relates term to indie both has the lost production much of its and orginal significance, purchase of music. For it once each stood adoption for the phase, underground, it offers a rough emergent music scene, timeframe, an example i.e. those of a musicians typical user, who andexisted a prominent outside the context indie band that of traditional functionedrecord as a change labels. agent Since and then,drew indepenwide dent music’s transformation of the music industry has served listenership. as a boilerplate for creatives across a multitude of industries. Today, the term indie is ubiquitous and the power of the independent entrepreneur can be easily viewed in art, fashion, film, publishing, design, and business at large.

27 27


1950s to 1960s The Innovators Those within the music industry itself were the first group to adopt independent music. Music producers began to take their raw skills outside of the majors scene and dabble in independent music on the side. Some of them successfully formed independent labels, although these labels were not highly profitable or well-known. At this point, indie musicians remained heavily dependent on the majors’ distibution channels, making it virtually impossible for an indie musician who gained popularity to stay indie. 28


29


30


“[T]he Byrds became touchstones for indie pop. Not for nothing did Edwyn Collins later sing: “I wore my fringe like Roger McGuinn’s.” -Michael Hann for The Guardian, 2011

31


Late 1960s to 1970s Early Adopters After gaining initial traction with those in the music industry who were looking to escape the grip of major label control, indie garnered a wider following. In the late 1960s and 1970s indie labels began to establish themselves as viable players in the music industry, with indie listeners coming from the hippie counterculture and underground movements. These new followers of indie music primarily learned of new bands through local word of mouth, independent radio stations or record stores. 32


33


34


“I was rearranged by the Velvet Underground in 1967. How on earth were they making that sound? And Nico. Nico!� -Cary Tennis, Salon.com, 2002

35


1980s Early Majority By the beginning of the 1980s, underground music hit the airwaves full-force. Much of the indie music during this era drew upon punk rock roots, with predominant indie “scenes” in cities like New York and London fueling its diffusion. One of the UK’s widely-followed music video programs, The Chart Show, gave indie musicians further credence as the show required bands to be indie in order to qualify for it “chart.” As the 1980s neared a close, indie charts had garnered so much attention that major labels were beginning to set up subsidiaries in order to push their acts through as indies. 36


37


38


“To put it simply they were everything...We refused not to wear our Queen is Dead t shirts at school, we spray painted the Smiths everywhere and we finished girlfriends who insulted them. From a time of shocking throw away pop The Smiths were seminal.” -Martyn, Newcastle UK, comment posted in response to a 2003 BBC article entitled “The Smiths: the influential alliance” 39


1990s Late Majority Heralded by majors’ move into indie branding during the late 1980s, indie music hit the masses during the 1990s, with wide distribution via radio, music television, and (later) peer to peer sharing online. The development of “indie rock� magazines, such as Pitchfork, and music festivals, such as Lollapalooza, further catapulted indies into the mainstream. This time period was fraught with controversy, though, as listeners questioned the legitimacy of indie bands. Thus, the indie title underwent a redefinition, splitting into alternative rock and indie, with murky distinctions between the two. 40


41


42


“Holland doesn’t want you to get all smug and superior if you support [The Offspring] for staying with the small Epitaph label ...[Says Holland] ‘For whatever reason, we’ve done things in the way we wanted to do it and we’re happy to stay on the independent label.’ -Jim Sullivan for The Boston Globe, 1994 43


2000s Laggards During the early 2000s, indie reached its final crescendo via the launch of the iPod and iTunes store, which brought underground music to the masses. The internet carried indie into the swarm, allowing start-up bands to quickly share their tracks online and gain success virtually overnight through social sharing platforms like YouTube and Facebook. The popularization of online music made indie the new norm, forcing many major labels out of business, but also crippling many musicians’ means of income and forcing them to find other jobs. 44


45


46


“[T]he success of [Adele’s] album-ofthe-year contender, 21, which is expected to sell its 20-millionth copy in the next month, also confirms that the independent sector has broken the once-unassailable grip of major labels on the UK charts.” -Caroline Sullivan for The Guardian, 2012

47


48 48


Analysis of the innovation

49 49


While it is probably already clear why indie music is an innovation, one can also view indie’s role through a more critical lens. Based upon the five attributes of innovations outlined by innovation scholar Everett Rogers, indie music scores positively in all areas today. However, at the time of its introduction, indie was signifianctly lacking in three of the five areas. Since then, technological shifts have pushed indie music further along the spectrum.1

1 50

Everett Rogers. Op. cit.


Relative Advantage

Adoption Less Likely 1960

Compatability

1960

Trialability Observability

2012

1960

Complexity 1960

1960

Adoption More Likely

2012

2012

2012

2012 51


Over the course of approximately 60 years, independent music moved from relatively unknown to platinum awardearning status. Throughout that time period, the music industry underwent a wide variety of shifts, including changes in the way music was recorded, a vast redefinition of the music distribution structure, and the development of new listening devices and platforms. Beyond the more obvious causes of indie’s diffusion, there are also the less obvious, like the global population shift to urban centers and the role that small concert venues played in catalyzing new acts. While the term “indie” has lost much of its original clout, there is little doubt that it has redefined the entertainment industry across many domains. The evolution of indie music to its present state underscores the power of the complex actor networks in facilitating the development and adoption of an innovation. Indie’s metamorphosis into its present form may be best summed through the following words from New York Times writer Rob Walker:1 1 52

Rob Walker. “The Brand Underground.” New York Times (2006).


“[We] no longer live in a world of the Mainstream and the Counterculture. We live in a world of multiple mainstreams and countless counter-, sub-, and counter-subcultures.�

53


54 54


Conclusion

55 55


What is indie? Today the boundaries between being on an independent label and being on a major label are no longer the defining characteristics of an indie. Some think of indie as a subgenre of rock music dominated by scraggly hipster young adults. Others see it as a broader term that can apply to crafts, filmmaking, fashion, and publishing. Still others see it as a lost genre with no present meaning. With indie musicians like Adele in the spotlight, and indie music festivals, blogs, and publications dominating the modern music scene, indie has become the norm rather than the exception.

56


57


58


Many questions surround the future of indie and few can surmise what it might hold in a world where an unknown band can dominate millions of earbuds at the click of an upload button. Yet, as the garage bands of yesteryear continue losing their edge to the Youtube music sensations of today, one thing remains certain: the notion of do-it-yourself indie music is not going anywhere soon.

59


Bibliography: Feenberg, A. “The Critical Theory of Technology.” Capitalism Nature Socialism, 1990. King, R. How Soon is Now: The Madmen and Mavericks who made Independent Music: 1975-2005. Faber and Faber: 2012. Digital release. Law, J. “Technology and Heterogeneous Engineering,” MIT Press, 1986. Lopes, P. “Innovation and Diversity in the Popular Music Industry: 1969 to 1990.” American Sociological Review, 1992. Rogers, E. Diffusion of Innovations. 5th ed. Free Press: 2003. Strachan, R. C. “Do it Yourself: Industry, Ideology, Aesthetics and Microindependent Record Labels in the UK.” 2003. PhD diss, University of Liverpool, 2003. Tschmuck, P. “How Creative Are the Creative Industries? A Case of the Music Industry.” The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, 2003. Walker, R. “The Brand Underground.” New York Times, 30 Jul. 2006, . http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30 magazine/30brand.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

60


Images by order of appearance: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

sketch_bihop via flickr aphasiafilms via flickr i am the loop via flickr krunkwerke via flickr jaqian via flickr 96 dpi via flickr robbellisphotography via flickr glowjangles via flickr jkgroove via flickr epiclectic via flickr artstor toni blay via flickr style.mtv.com ankor2 via flickr ethan hickerson via flickr Last.fm svenwork via flickr Vogue.com hubmedia via flickr dj whelan via flickr 10111 via flickr 61



Indie Music: Innovation Case Study