Thursday, May 05, 2005

The 2005 Indie Music Scene, by Lezah Williamson

The indie music machine is cranking up, big time. The number of good - really good - indie bands coming through town these days is increasing almost exponentially. A few years ago we'd have these great (or maybe not so great) long dry spells where there were no decent bands to see - sure, there were bands, but just not much of interest. These days, however, I just can't keep up. I'd go broke trying to get to all the shows, and end up with a pretty serious sleep deficit to boot.

What exactly is going on? Why the sudden change in the scene?

Even the old stodgies at Time magazine have noticed:  the April 4 Canadian edition had The Arcade Fire on the front cover, with the headline, "Canada's Most Intriguing Rock Band:  Why critics love the Arcade Fire, and how it became the country's hottest musical export".  Also included was "The best indie bands in the nation and the most anticipated albums of 2005", "Indie Heat:  How an unknown Montreal band became a critical favorite and helped put Canadian music on the world map", "Five That Matter", "What it Means to Go 'Indie'", and "The Insider's Guide to Indie Rock".  Some seriously good reading there. Seriously.

Someone I was speaking to the other day mentioned the discovery of Kate Bush, and how, when she was discovered, it was determined that she 'wasn't ready' so she was given a couple of years to pull things together. Of course, the big music machine doesn't work that way any more; she either wouldn't get picked up at all, or else it would be a case of chew her up and spit it out. There's no development of bands any more from the big money end of things, it's all marketing and image-making and stylists. The importance of the music seems trail along somewhere, way back in the distance.

And then computer downloads and iTunes and people burning their own cds have cut into the profit margins of the big guys, too. So when indie sales jump from 14% to 19% in four years (1999 to 2003), when indie bands sell out increasingly larger venues for nights in a row, when people like Vancouver's Black Mountain art collective or Montreal's Broken Social Scene are doing all the legwork, when Austin's indie music festival South by Southwest garners almost as much press as the Oscars, then that's when people sit up and notice.

Consequently, real music is on the rise and all that Jessica Simpson and her ilk pre-fab stuff (I can't even bring myself to call if music) can just get airbrushed, produced and shipped the h**l out of here!

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