Intimate Indie, or Tweeting with your friendly neighborhood Indie Band

I’m not the first to claim that the last decade has been the Indie decade. And it’s not just because companies are increasingly using Indie songs in their commercials. Nor is it the Indie sound (though both are arguably driving forces). No, the hallmark of the rise of Indie is the connection. Call me sappy, but Indie bands know that their popularity starts with their audience. It’s the intimacy of the small venue that puts them on the level with their fans. However, until the last 5-10 years, that intimacy was limited to the the small venue, the record store, or the zealous band member who builds popularity one fan at a time.

Where am I going with this? (There is a point, promise). If intimacy with its fans drives Indie, then the rise of Indie should be attributed to the ever-incrasing opportunity digital media provides for the fan-band connection. I had one such experience this weekend. A band with sounds similar to the ones I commonly laud on Twitter named “Pawns or Kings” reached out to me and offered me their music for my personal delectation and critique. Sure, this is similar to basic media relations, but this was anything but the basic press package one would expect. No, It was selective and personal. It was a conversation, and one that turned me on to their music:

Now, one Twitter contact won’t build anyone a fan base, but knowing HOW to use social media will. And Pawns or Kings is only the latest in a line of Indie bands I’ve interacted with that take advantage of social media to show their fans of their fans, including Sugar and the Hi-LowsTen Out of Tenn, Vinyl Thief, Nick Waterhouse, and Pepper Rabbit.

And you know what helps? That their music is innovative and enjoyable. And to their credit, Pawns or Kings’ music is just that. At times frivolous and others deeply meaningful and moving, I’ve quite taken to their music. I’m particularly smitten with “Sister of the Sun”.

So, check out Pawns or Kings, and then Tweet your favorite Indie Band and see how they do in building a connection with you.

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When an Indie song isn’t…

I admit it. I, too, get excited by a retweet or reply on Twitter, especially if it’s a musician or band I enjoy. My most recent crazed fan experience was last week.

The musician: Nick Waterhouse.

The topic: This

Being too big an Indie aficionado for my own good, I can usually name the “unknown” song on commercials before they go all buzzy online. In fact, I’ve usually moved on from the song and am on to something else by the time I hear the song on the commercial. But the commercial usually reinvigorates interest for me. Thinking about this phenomenon, I posted the following tweet:

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The response came almost immediately:

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It had never dawned on me that what I call Indie probably has no meaning for (who I’d term) the Indie artist. Truth be told, Waterhouse’s music is probably more funk, soul, and R&B than it is traditional Indie (as might be defined by Juno and Nick and Norah). Truth be told, Indie is probably just as it sounds: Music from unsigned, independent bands, thus “Indie”.

But over the last few years, Indie music, in my mind, has become more about the sound than the band’s status as unsigned and “independent”. Case in point: bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket, and Vampire Weekend are hallmarks of Indie music, but “independent” and unsigned, they are not. It’s the sound that defines the genre, and Indie sound is a rejection of the mainstream, sell-out radio-endorsed music that clutters the airwaves. It’s also broader than limiting it to one “type” of music (i.e. electronic, rock, etc.). The best indie is genre-defining and is often a fusion of multiple styles. (Take Mariachi El Bronx for example: a Punk and Mariachi fusion. Yeah, you’ve got to hear it).

So, to Nick Waterhouse, whose music is genre bending enough to be called Indie, I say: Indie music is innovative, musical style that rejects the mainstream…

….and that may or may NOT be, technically, independent.