How I learned to stop worrying and love the sell-out rockstar…
Though it is a hard pill to swallow, if my favourite band is going to be featured on the next iPod commercial, who am I to judge? Independent artists shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty in order to ‘keep it real’.
From my teenage years of longing to be a real punk-rocker with pink hair (held back by my 14 year old self-esteem issues), through the years I spent obsessing over folk music and the love and peace, festival lifestyle, and finally to my now more upbeat and eclectic tastes – I have always been a self-defined music snob.
I can go on for hours telling people what bands to listen to and I could give a rat’s ass about what they listen to. I don’t follow Top 40 radio and I cannot honestly think of a moment in time when I ever did. Though my music tastes have evolved, my record collection has always stuck to the more obscure names and labels. I am dedicated to my favourite independent artists who don’t have a hope in hell of getting a big distribution deal. Their albums are scratchy but their music is fantastic.
I love the atmosphere of the shows that these kinds of bands play. The people attending are familiar, like a group of friends who share an inside joke; they are the type of people to sport their newest vintage plaid shirt, ironic moustache, and big Ray Ban glasses. Everyone at the concert knows the band’s latest side-project and owns all of their previous releases. Unfortunately, they’re a tough crowd to please – a lot of them are fair-weather fans.
I find it quite funny that when a no-name band finally gets radio play, is featured in the latest Honda commercial, or is lucky enough to be featured in an American sitcom, they get blasted from their once loyal following. All those people who faithfully attended concerts and continued to seek out records in small record shops because the bands couldn’t afford to release their album online? They suddenly turn into critics rather than members of the dedicated fan-base.
Here is where I exclude myself from my fellow hipster fans – though I am not sure I have enough irony in my closet to fit in with that crowd. I say, kudos to you Metric, Iron and Wine, Sea Wolf, Bon Iver, et al.!
Selling your soul, as some might put it, to the Twilight, Eclipse, and whatever the other movie was called franchise was a good business move. You’ve edged your way into a whole new audience of up and coming music snobs who just might buy your album. Well, to be honest, they will probably just watch your video on YouTube and pirate a couple of your singles – but here’s hoping. Who am I to judge these musicians for trying to pay their rent?
We all saw Almost Famous – and swooned over the ‘glory days’ of the 1970s, touring band. The artist ‘lifestyle’ of living on the road, travelling across countries playing little shows and living in basic poverty for the ‘love of the music’ probably isn’t as romantic as we concert attendees think. I’ve grown up (slightly) and realized how hard it is to keep credit on my phone, pay my rent AND support my beer drinking habit. If I could sell a song to play while the grumpy-faced Kristin Stewart looks longingly into Taylor Lautner’s far-set eyes, I would do it for the security of knowing where my next credit card payment is coming from.
It was hard pill to swallow when I realised that my beloved indie music queen had topped the iTunes downloads chart. But, I have come to terms with the fact that Feist got to sing “1-2-3-4 monsters walking across the floor” with Elmo on Sesame Street. Going to see her play in concert probably won’t be the same anymore – no more inside-joke-keeping, familial types to hang out with. Oh well, I won’t be able to afford her ticket prices anyways; it doesn’t mean that I am not still a huge fan of her music.
Though they didn’t really have the same humble beginnings of a lot of other small-time bands had, this year’s Grammy for Album of the Year finally went to someone interesting – The Arcade Fire. They have been featured in advertisements, they were responsible for making Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are beautiful, and they have kept their shit together agreeing to match up to a million dollars raised for Kanape (www.kanpe.org) an organization dedicated to stopping the cycle of poverty in Haiti rather than blowing it on Escalades and private islands. For the last seven years they’ve been my all-time, favourite band and their mainstream Grammy win isn’t going to knock them out of this prestigious place of honour.
And so, I am going to continue supporting no-name bands: buying their records, linking their newest single on my blog that no one reads (we all have one), and saying slightly louder than necessary in the movie theatre “Hey, isn’t this Grizzly Bear playing in the background?” all in the name of helping them pay their bills even though this habit disables me from paying mine.
Oh, and by the way, it would be nice to have some company as I continue to be obscure. So, in the interests of increasing my ironic wardrobe, I invite to explore some links (no vintage flannel, Ray-bans or moustaches required):
Iron and Wine: www.ironandwine.com
Sea Wolf: www.seawolfmusic.com
Bon Iver: www.boniver.org
The Arcade Fire: www.arcadefire.com
Grizzly Bear: www.grizzly-bear.net