Volume 96, Issue 60
Thursday, January 16, 2003

Search the Archives:



Laying to rest the myths surrounding indie music

By Dale Wyatt
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
WROUGHT WITH EXCITEMENT, INDIE HEROES SLOAN TAKE A SHORT BREAK BEFORE HEADING OUT ON THE ROAD FOR ANOTHER 11 MONTHS. Sloan are just one example of a band that has earned success their own way.

Independent music, or indie music as most have come to call it, arguably forms the most essential part of the Canadian music scene.

Indie music embraces its surroundings more than its mainstream counterpart and provides a more honest reflection of an artist or community's artistic voice. Sounds and styles vary drastically from city to city and province to province, and cater to the diverse environments and situations people experience.

The demand for this pure music has resulted in uncountable indie music stores and live venues popping up to fulfill the heavy demand. The music can be heard pumping out of college radio stations country wide, giving bands more exposure.

However, there are a few popular myths surrounding indie music that must be laid to rest.

Gazette file photo
The Planet Smashers
Myth #1: Bands are only indie because they lack the talent or appeal to get signed.

This is the most popular myth associated with indie artists and the most untrue. Over the years, numerous bands have been sought out by larger labels and have repeatedly turned down offers in favour of retaining their artistic freedom.

With the rise in popularity of this art form, many labels have attempted to capitalize on it by attempting to sign bands. Popular bands and artists like Fugazi, Danko Jones, Swollen Members, Sloan, The Planet Smashers and Hawksley Workman – to name a few – are all successful, well-known names who retain control over their music by refusing to sign major label contracts – and this has not hindered their success.

Many of the aforementioned bands employ major labels for distribution purposes, but they are able to make and release the music they want by remaining with a smaller label.

Myth #2: Indie bands live in their vans on tour and have absolutely no money.

It is true that many, perhaps most, have little to no money, however, many indie bands are able to earn a living playing the music they love.

Their chances of owning a Bentley are greatly reduced, and they most likely won't be able to afford a summer home in Barbados, but it is possible to sustain a decent home and life for themselves and their families playing music – they don't have to rely on mainstream success to sustain a good living.

Myth #3: Any band would jump at the opportunity to get signed.

Getting signed to a major label is not all it is cracked up to be. The majority of bands who are signed often go nowhere and are dropped after being forced to sacrifice their artistic integrity.

After being dropped by a major label, it is usually extremely difficult to start up again. Bands are often viewed as a "has-been" or a failure and this sometimes even forces a band to part ways. They also get put into the dreaded "one-hit wonder" category.

Myth #4: Any indie band that gets signed is a sellout.

The term "sellout" is one of the most commonly used phrases in music today. It refers to a band going against what they were perceived as standing for in order to achieve immediate success.

Although some of the earlier names mentioned made a conscious choice to stay indie, many bands are actively seeking commercial success. Therefore, to call a popular indie band who wants commercial fame and recognition a sellout for signing with a major label is like calling a minor league hockey player a sellout for turning pro – it just doesn't make sense.

Independent music is extremely important, especially in Canada, and must be preserved. Without bands being able to enjoy the freedom to experiment and try new things without the pressure to push albums, the music industry would never advance and would quickly become stagnant. In addition, Canadian music would live in greater fear of being overtaken by the American artists and industry.

It is important we recognize the role underground bands play in developing new musical styles and new groups. And thanks to indie radio stations, like Western's own CHRW 94.7 FM, we are able to hear the many different things indie music has to offer.


Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department