Sometimes when writing for a blog called Indie Ear, I (almost) feel guilty for showing excitement over certain major label releases. However–when I take a second to think about it–concealing my emotions for whatever reason is not true independence, and if I’m not independent, what place do I have on a website expressing independent thoughts and ideas (yes that “I” in IFC stands for independent if you didn’t know).
Ah yes, a very slippery slope my friends.
(left: Though this cat looks like your typical mainstream rocker, she’s actually signed to a small indie label.)
I have some comrades who live and die indie rock. They go deep, deep, deep into the underground, mining for those corporate-free, do-it-yourself-even-if-I-have-to-live-the-rest-of-my-life-eating-cans-of-tuna musical acts. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of these bands too, but when it comes to music, I like to consider myself “label-blind.” If a band can give me goose-pimples (my failsafe barometer for listening to music), it doesn’t matter if they own a guitar-shaped-swimming or a guitar-shaped-lunchbox. In 10 years, this little blog post will be meaningless anyway, because every band will be an indie band (whether they sound like Yo La Tengo or not).
Not only will every band be independent of major labels, but in 10 years, the species now known as the “rock star” will be nearly extinct. With so many ways to consume music these days, and less and less authority from the “powers that be” dictating who or what is cool, it will be nearly impossible to rally around an Axl Rose, or even a Bono-type figure.
For fans of independent music, this sounds righteous, doesn’t it? Keep in mind though, a world without rock stars can have no anti-rock stars–no Ivan Drago to your Rocky Balboa, no fire to your ice, no antithesis whatsoever. With an equal playing field indie kids can longer roll their eyes at mainstream-friendly acts, cause mainstream friendly acts will be in the same boat as a loft-dwelling band in Brooklyn–no label, no tour bus, no t-shirt money to buy a Ho-Ho at the corner deli.
So here’s my point, not all major label acts are sent by the devil. It’s good to know that if a major label uses their time and money wisely, a young tweener (who doesn’t even know what a record store is) may have a chance of discovering a band like Death Cab For Cutie. Major labels also give young, hungry indie bands hope, “You mean I can actually quit my day job and make a living off of my music?” Yes–I know–there have been artists who got royally screwed in their major label experience, but there are also bands out there who singed on the dotted line and got to enjoy the finer things in life (electricity, running water, and not having to pinch pennies to pay rent).
Believe it or not, this whole notion of “rock star” came to mind last night when I was watching an iTunes commercial featuring Coldplay. One of half of me wanted to scream “sell out,” while the other half of me realized that Chris Martin might be one of our generation’s last rock stars. Is Chris Martin married to a famous actress? Check. Is he making gobs of money? Check. But–does he still carry some semblance of the indie rock spirit? I’d like to say “yes” to that as well. C’mon, championing fair trade for the world’s poorest countries, you can get much more indie than that.
(left: Could Chris Martin be one of our last rock stars?)
I met Coldplay years ago when they were out on the road supporting their debut album. The guys in the band were as nice as nice can be, but when you’re staring out, you have to be nice to everyone, right? Chris Martin was also the first artist I interviewed who actually remembered my name. Amazingly, years later when I waved to him across the lobby of a hotel (after not crossing paths for a good three years), he handed his child over to his movie star wife (aka Pepper Potts in Ironman) and came over to catch up with me.
So here goes–
I don’t feel guilty for telling you that I’m excited about Coldplay’s forthcoming release Viva La Vida. From what I’ve heard of the album so far, it sounds big, but big in a good way, in a way that may have some indie diehards tapping their toes along to the music (whether they will admit this to you or not). If Chris Martin is one of the last rock stars, we went out with a good one.