Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Indie? Commericial? Both?

Okay, so I really wanted to post this the day after the Grammies, but since my blog schedule was already full, it's going up a bit late. Really, my brother-in-law is the inspiration for this post. You see, he's an Indie snob. He avoids all things mainstream like the plague. He posted this huge rant the day after the Grammies expressing his excitement over Arcade Fire's Album of the Year win and basically said main-stream, commercial artists could shove it...well, you get the picture. This got me to thinking, though. Isn't Indie really Pre-commercial?

Think about it, a few years ago, Green Day wasn't considered commercial or main stream. But after they won a Grammy, a mainstream audience took notice. Their popularity soared and their songs were being played along side other Top 40 artists. Then the detractors started wagging their tongues calling Green Day sell-outs and shouting to the heavens that the band no longer cared about their indie roots. Really? I mean, seriously?? I like Green Day. I liked them pre-commercial success (uh, Brain Stew...brilliant!) as well as after. And isn't it every artist's goal to reach the largest audience possible? Of course it is! We WANT millions of people to buy our CD's, books, DVD's.

Think of Arcade Fire as the Indie pubbed author. They've been around for a while, found their popularity in a smaller, yet no less valid audience. They've perfected their craft, played the venues, paid their dues. Then, one day, some mainstreamer somewhere happens to hear one of their songs, passes it on to someone else, and so on and so forth. Their peers in the music industry start paying more attention to them as well. And before you know it--BAM-O! Grammy. In the weeks that follow, mainstream music customers grow curious, they buy their albums, and so it goes. Arcade Fire is no longer "Indie" but "Commercial". A great literary example of an author going from indie to mainstream is Audrey Niffenegger. She sent The Time Traveler's Wife as an unsolicited submission to MacAdam/Cage, a successful indie publisher in California. The book has sold millions of copies and from I found on the interwebs, her second book sold for a seven-figure advance.

Same goes for commercial, or "traditionally" pubbed authors. Think of them as Rhianna. Agented, contracted, publicized, she's got a cameo in a dozen records this year, as well as her own successful album. Everyone knows who she is, they recognize that trademark red hair she's sporting lately, and there isn't an hour of the day when some radio station, somewhere isn't playing one of her songs. Yet where was she on Grammy night? Sharing the SAME stage as Arcade Fire. Singing to the SAME audience. Building a fan-base in the mainstream, television viewing world.

Indie? Commerical? No matter how you classify yourself, we all have the same goal, to put our books out into the world and have them read by the masses. Otherwise, we'd just print out our manuscripts, put them in a binder and circulate them to friends and family only. We're all on the same staircase, people. We're just on different steps. What do you think? Is Indie really Pre-commercial or will there always be a line separating two artistic sides of the street?


WindyA said...

Read this blog post and had a moment of deja vu. ;) Great post. Because regardless of your medium of publication, I too believe that as a writer / artist / musician, you really just want to get what you do out to as wide an audience as possible.

Matthew Rush said...

For music, just like books, I don't give a damn where it came from, as long as it's good.

KM said...

I love Arcade Fire, and I'm so happy that they're finally getting some credit! They've been producing some amazing music for a while now.

It bothers me, as well, when people talk about commercial as if it's 'selling out.' Is it so wrong to be successful? Just because you're not playing at tiny bars or not hitting the Barnes & Noble shelves doesn't mean that you're better than those who have 'made it.' Aren't we ALL trying to 'make it'?

Stephanie McGee said...

Interesting post. Thanks! (I'd comment further, but I have no idea what bands you're talking about.)

Cole Gibsen said...

Awesome post! I couldn't agree more.

Jennifer Hillier said...

"Indie is really pre-commercial"... yes, that's a great way of looking at it. I don't think Arcade Fire (a band I love) has lost anything because they've won a Grammy. They're still infinitely cool to me. How great for them, and boy, did they look happy!

Fabulous post!