Indie Music in 2016.
With the invention of technology, new, generally economical recording instruments, more people can take part in the production of music than any time in recent memory. Studio time is costly and hard to get, so most, if not all, of innovation is focused on the home-PC, laptop and iPads. As a result, anybody can create studio-quality music from their own home. Each home-made recording can be viewed as a fresh recording. Also, innovation makes sure this is accessible to the overall population. After equipment and programming costs, the eager indie artist need not stress over more costs, similar to expenses for studio space or sound specialists. As generation has been made simpler, marketing and publicizing have additionally gotten to be less demanding in view of current headways in innovation, to be specific through the web. This is how technology has affected the indie music industry. You may read about this in detail in my post Technology and the Indie Music Industry.
It’s funny how TV hosts still keep imploring the viewers to “stay tuned” when there have been no tuners for television for decades now! People still call music they listen to streamed through an app on their phone a “mixtape”, while mixtapes haven’t been on tape in over a decade! That said, its time we had a deeper look at what being “indie” means in today’s world.
First, I don’t intend to point a particular artist, but really, anyone with the backing of a company worth $700 billion, which is several times more than all the major labels combined, or an artist doing deals with Apple and spending $250K on shows without a major label doesn’t fit into the category of what we, until today have known about being indie! And hence the question- with changing times, is the definition of indie changing as well?
As we all know, the ‘master’, in our parlance, is essentially the music itself as it was recorded (separate from the publishing). Now let’s backtrack for a moment. The most fundamental aspect of a deal is that signing to a label really means “signing away the rights to your masters”, whereas, today, it means getting access to power and money. Unfortunately, the downside and the meaning of not owning your own masters doesn’t sink in for artists until much later in their careers. It is after about a decade of being in the industry that they realise, they don’t own anything – neither the music that they made, nor the lyrics they wrote. However, at that time they cannot leave the label and take the music with them anymore than you could work at at a restaurant and leave with every dish you ever made when you quit.
Not owning your own masters is an irreversible loss, but i also understand that it is probably the only way to success that an indie artist sees at the beginning of a career. For most of all of their adult lives, all indie artists labor under one construct. They compose music, write lyrics, and produce songs for themselves and others. Their creativity is their life; and they eventually give away their life to labels by signing off the right to their masters! So much for a career.
Hence, on the most fundamental level, the definition of independence is simple. If you own your own masters you’re truly independent. You can do whatever you want with your music – bury it in a vault, sell one copy for millions, throw a thousand CDs in the sea. You are free to do with your music as you please, without needing anyone else’s approval. That’s independence. In practice though, how many of us actually think about masters when we think about indie music? Really what it mean is access to power and resources, and that’s the definition that’s shifted wildly in the last decade. As we step into 2017, we wonder what the next year has in store for indie artists and the music industry as a whole!
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