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Author Topic: Arcade Fire Wins Grammy, prompting Americans to wonder who they are anyway  (Read 30530 times)

tommydski

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In the UK, my mother and older brother have bought every album since Neon Bible because Mercury redecorated the entire country Arcade Fire colour for their last couple of albums.

I can't emphasise how huge you are to have sold albums to three members of my family. We're talking U2 huge (which I guess is appropriate since they're on the same label).
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TheFuriousWombat

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So does their distribution in one country disqualify them universally from being considered independent? Here in the US they're NEVER on the radio apart from college stations and their music is very rarely heard in commercials, movie trailers, tv shows, and the like. You say "every album" like they're some hugely prolific band. Every album since Neon Bible is one other album. I dunno, they may be pretty popular but comparing Arcade Fire to U2 is totally absurd and not even remotely close to reality. I'm not defending them per se, I think they've released one great album and the rest have been fairly mediocre but their independent status is obvious to me which makes their Grammy win pretty significant. I don't know for sure but I would guess this is the first time a band not on a major label in America won this American award and considering the established Names they beat it's a pretty big shock to the system
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tommydski

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So does their distribution in one country disqualify them universally from being considered independent?

Being signed to a major label in the UK makes them a major label band in the UK, which in my mind had an indisputable knock-on effect in the US. It's not a distribution deal, they are signed to Mercury absolutely. Mercury promotes, manufactures and distributes their records in Europe. They are signed to a major label here. They are a major label band. It says so on the Mercury website. It says so on their records here (it doesn't say Merge anywhere because they are signed to Mercury). That's fine by me, it doesn't change their music at all. So yes, in my mind being on a major label and having all that promotional power (which works on a global scale incidentally) of a major label pretty much discounts them from being considered an "indie" band despite the fact that they've managed to remain on Merge (a very great label) in the US and in some other countries.

They were doing fine in the UK on Rough Trade, sold a ridiculous number of records in fact, but then they signed to a major label for presumably all the reasons any other band does. Still, regardless of this fact they're touted as an "indie" band. It's not quite true though, which sort of bugs me for all the reasons I already mentioned at length in this thread.

I know this is pedantic but independent music isn't just about what label you're on, it's also about booking your own shows, not being associated with certain corporations and maintaining a certain level of good practices etc. Arcade Fire have two managers, several press agents, a major label record deal in the UK and all the marketing clout which comes with that (specifically the payola which gets you on radio and television - can't emphasise how crucial that is). I'm not criticising them for doing this but they've transcended the point where they can be put in the same category as genuine independent bands.

I'm making a point about how different it is because it's visibly different and it's bizarre how people continue to deny it. I know a lot of independent bands and record labels and they aren't run remotely like The Arcade Fire, who have all of the above by choice, not by chance. Ignoring the very obvious difference between this band and any other purely independent band basically nullifies the choices of the latter groups, which are often made because they actually understand and prefer the independent ethos in itself. These are the people who don't have managers or major label deals anywhere in the world. They book their own tours and work day jobs etc. I'm emphasising the difference repeatedly because it's very different.

You can claim that The Arcade Fire is the same as these groups if you like but it's very apparent that they're not any more.
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tommydski

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The thing about the independent ethos is it's supposed to encourage people that they don't need to conform to the mainstream in any way or use the traditional methods of becoming successful (which in itself is debatable). Thus, we can see how fundamentally different these two approaches are if you imagine me advising a new band to follow in the footsteps of The Arcade Fire -

1. Form a band, write some music, play some shows.
2. Record some music in the studio and release it on an independent label.
3. Get a manager, then get another one to book your shows too.
4. Sign to a major label, who will market you to commercial radio and music television as well as the mainstream media.
5. Win a Grammy! Wow, awesome!

Instead of -

1. Form a band, write some music, play some shows.
2. Record some music in the studio and release it on an independent label.

Both ways are fine by me. In this instance the first method worked super well for everybody concerned so it's all good. However, it's not quite true to say that methods one and two are the same because they're not. It doesn't make an iota of difference to how good your music is regardless of which direction you decide to take.
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Johnny C

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This thing (band tours lots, becomes famous without pop radio play) is a thing that has never happened before? Can you say with a straight face that if Billboard #1s were selling millions instead of low hundred thousands Arcade Fire would have made it anywhere near this award?

1) no the thing that has happened before is happening again in the 21st century when ringtones are a legitimate honest-to-god sales and success metric, i'm not dim enough to suggest that a band who tours a lot and subsequently becomes famous has never happened before, give me some credit
2) who knows dude, this is the reality we're given & i am trying to speak mainly to it

---words below---

tommy, dude, i dislike the idea of bands having to have managers as much as anyone else but to say that doesn't make them independent is a crock of shit. i talk to independent bands through press people every other week – bands that also hire people to book shows for them. that doesn't mean they're not independent, and that doesn't mean they lack an independent ethos. it means they have other stuff to do with their lives than be on the phone. it's really tough to hold that against them.

it's maybe not stridently ian mackaye ideologue independence but booking a tour and doing press and all that stuff is seriously ass-busting work, especially in north america where you have a ton of bands and a ton of ground to cover, and i know cause i'm friends with nationally touring bands and i've tried to do press for myself and it's a giant clusterfuck nightmare. when you're on the road for several months out of the year to be on the phone and in email contact with people across the country all hours of the day as well it may be doable but like so is grinding your own flour and sun-drying your own tomatoes yet i'm not some kind of hybrid heston-contessa dude so i'm not going to suggest that anyone who doesn't do that isn't a good cook. they want to buy some at the farmer's market or italian grocery or whatever? cool. similarly, if a band works with a press person or a booking agent – that's fine. plenty of bands have done that. i'm not sure where that stops – should bands not design their own websites? should they design and print all their posters? should they screen all their own shirts? press & package their music (note: these estates do this)? what separates those from having a booking agent, especially in 2011 when a website can honest-to-god be as important if not more important than having someone manage press?

the stuff with mercury? that's one record so far, and the record prior to it has sold 400,000 copies to date, all on merge, and during that record's promotion they toured with U2 and bruce springsteen in arenas across north america. and people went to see them, too. funeral's sold over half a million copies and was nominated for a best alternative grammy, which was prior to touring with U2 and to signing with mercury. (those sales, by the way, don't count tour sales, which aren't calculated or tracked by billboard.) and their ads were all over magazines and shit in canada and the states, don't kid yourself – they weren't on pop radio but still. they sold out madison square garden two nights in a row.

unless you're going to posit some really bizarre trickle-across profit thing that reveals how money from record sales in canada, the u.s., and other countries across the globe slowly funnel from merge to mercury,* this strikes me if anything as a validation of what weingarten says – "here is a band that is going to move the fuck out of some units," mercury says. "and 'sinking down to their level' and signing them will actually provide us with some revenue." here in north america, where they've sold the majority of their records, they're making bank, they moved tons of units, and they're doing it through merge. my mom likes the arcade fire too, and you know who told her? canadian public broadcast radio, who've been playing their records since the first ep.

like step 4 and 5 are severely disingenuous. step 3, like i said, isn't wrong. they did step 2 twice, the second time facilitating it by having built a reputation as a sterling live act and having had a first record that they put all their guts into take off. don't front as if this was impossible to accomplish without mercury unless you can like provide some actual proof about it. far as i can see, mercury saw a hot rod peeling out down the street and decided to skitch on it at the last second. if that rules them out as a band that's worked independently, fine. i guess if you're willing to ignore like six years of history then there's no real arguing with you.

i'm sorry! i'm on like three hours of sleep, so i'm kind of edgy. but the last thing i want to tell my friends in rah rah, who've been packing into a van a couple of times a year for the last three years to haul ass back and forth across the country playing first to crowds of 20 people and then nowadays crowds of several hundred, all while doing so on their own dime and on a locally-run record label, that they've betrayed the independent ethos by hiring a booking agent to book tours while they're working jobs and getting degrees, or that once they sign to a uk label for distro that negates everything they've worked at independently of said label. that sets me right off. and now i've written a bunch of words defending the arcade fire. for your next trick, back me into defending the beatles, maybe? paul's lawyers?

*the sole argument for this that i can determine is that them being popular over here will make them popular in the uk but they sold a ton of records in the uk before signing to merge anyways so i think crediting this exclusively to mercury's advertising campaign or suggesting that mercury single-handedly turned them into a band that has topped critics' best-of lists and debuted on the billboard charts for half a decade without their help is like some serious history-distorting stuff
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tommydski

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I'm struggling to disagree with any of the above because it kind of makes out that I'm positing a stance which I'm not - that The Arcade Fire are not good because they aren't really an independent band. This isn't true. I said before that it doesn't matter which label you're on, it doesn't make your music good or bad. Notice how I deliberately haven't said anything about whether or not I like them as a band because it's not really something I see as relevant. There are great bands on major labels, there are horrible bands on independent labels. However, I will confess that I don't consider this band to be an "indie band" anymore and I think I explained why to a reasonable standard.

Sorry if it makes me hard-liner but yeah, at the point whereby you have a manager or you're not booking your own shows or you've signed to a major label - you're not an independent band any more. You can still be the best band in the goddamn world. You can still be the nicest dudes there have ever been. You can still be Zeitgeist-shatteringly mind-blowingly incredible in every way but once you've crossed those lines, you're not really "indie" anymore. Anybody who makes a point suggesting that not being an "indie" band makes you bad in any way is a retard but then again, I doubt anyone in the world would make that argument.

You can sell a truly insane amount of records and maintain your independent status if you really want to - good examples being Fugazi and Shellac. That is fine! You can sell a truly insane amount of records and shed your independent status by placing the operations and running of your band in the hands of other people and sign to a major record label too - good examples being The Decemberists or The Arcade Fire. That is also fine! There's no moral judgement to be made here because your music will still be good or bad on its own merits. Both decisions probably have their own advantages and disadvantages. I have absolutely no issue with whatever anybody wants to do with their own music, they can do what they like.

However, regardless of what you say it's not the same thing.
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ALoveSupreme

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I don't want to cross-post this debate from Electrical but here in the UK we have a different view of them because they've been a major label band for many years now. They've had that sickly major label marketing since they left Rough Trade and thus, it doesn't feel like as much of a surprise.

Not everyone over there, apparently
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tommydski

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It's really as simple as saying at the point where you stop doing all the things that makes you an independent band, you cease to be an independent band.

I have no idea how this is controversial.
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Johnny C

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tommy, i'm not saying that you said the band was bad – i deliberately didn't say that, in fact, because you're right and that doesn't have anything to do with it. but i disagree with you that having someone do press for you doesn't make you indie. that's not a hard line – it's an arbitrary one. when i spoke with oliver from a place to bury strangers two years ago to do an article on his band for my pissant college newspaper, i did it through a press guy. they were on killer pimp records at the time. that label barely has a website. meanwhile oliver's band was embarking on a huge tour across north america, he had to run death by audio back in new york, and he was still building boutique guitar pedals. that doesn't embody the independent ethos somehow? like i said above – where do we draw the line? is building your own website okay or not? do you have to run things out of a gmail account?

give me something here because i'm having a hard time figuring out why the only model for independence should be fugazi – who had, by the way, almost a decade's worth of positive press to their lead dude's former act – or black flag – whose revolving-door band members quite frequently hated actually being in that band – or shellac – whose frontman is like a world-renowned record producer who had a fairly acclaimed couple of bands prior to his current act, and who tour for vacation.

you want to argue the mercury records bit, that's totally fair, and you've got some valid points, though i'd argue that deliberately ignoring everything the arcade fire did as a band touring the entire world without a cent of major label money and selling a million fucking records in the process is somewhat intellectually dishonest. what i'm saying, i guess, is that the absolute hard line beyond signing to a major is wrong, and if you want to be giving a kid starting a band advice in list form like you did up there, it's a foul bit of rhetoric to append "by the way don't ever hire a booking agent or press guy." that kid went to go see the fucking weakerthans, who help run an anarchist printing press, and decided he wanted to pick up a guitar and start playing independent music. don't front on him just because you think the weakerthans aren't independent.

we can play this game all day, by the way; i'm pretty sure you know as many bands on mint and arts & crafts and what have you as i do. and those bands are as independent as any. i'm not interested in an ever-narrowing list of arbitrary criteria that make increasing demands of the few hours the members of those bands afforded in a day. i'm interested in if they have an ethos that says "i'll do things the way my art demands i do them."
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tommydski

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like i said above – where do we draw the line?

That's exactly the point I guess - where we draw the line. Personally, I'm drawing it right here and The Arcade Fire are on the other side of it to say, Police Teeth or The Gary or These Estates or Half Mile Fox Fur. Those bands can still be indie, that is fine. Using the word for those bands makes absolute sense to me. If you like, and I say this with not even a hint of derision but just because it's a thinker, we'll get a new word and The Arcade Fire can have the word "indie" for themselves, forever. My only problem with that is eventually whatever word we use will eventually be claimed by other bands who have a conspicuously different modus operandi but are appropriating it for their own purposes. Then we'll get another word and the cycle can continue.

Let's say it's a system of strikes. You can let someone else make your website and make your lunch but at the point whereby you get a manager or sign to a major label (I am not making this up, all of their records are on Mercury in the UK. I went to a record store to check!) you're a different animal all together.

give me something here because i'm having a hard time figuring out why the only model for independence should be fugazi – who had, by the way, almost a decade's worth of positive press to their lead dude's former act – or black flag – whose revolving-door band members quite frequently hated actually being in that band – or shellac – whose frontman is like a world-renowned record producer who had a fairly acclaimed couple of bands prior to his current act, and who tour for vacation.

It's Fugazi and Shellac because they really have sold as many records as just about any mainstream rock band but retained absolute control of their music and the operation of their bands. There's a misconception that becoming so popular forces you into certain decisions but that's not really true. You can put the phone down every time a major label calls you. You can book your own shows. You can say no when somebody says they will manage your band. That is absolutely possible, denying that it is when many other bands have done it is absurd. Your ability to say "no" in any instance is not affected by how many records you have sold. It's always your choice, basically.

The Arcade Fire indisputably made the right decisions for their band. They just happened to be decisions which also crossed the line where they can be honestly described as independent in the sense of the word which I use to refer to Ian Mackaye and Steve Albini etc.

you want to argue the mercury records bit, that's totally fair, and you've got some valid points, though i'd argue that deliberately ignoring everything the arcade fire did as a band touring the entire world without a cent of major label money and selling a million fucking records in the process is somewhat intellectually dishonest.

They were an incredibly successful independent band and then they ceased to be one when they made decisions like signing to a major and getting a manager. Now they're an incredibly successful band in general. No slight on them at all, they are fighting the good fight on their own terms.
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Johnny C

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i think there is something of a rhetorical slight against them, though! especially saying that having a manager isn't independent, which like i'm pretty sure i made a compelling case about above! you're making out people who actually work to help bands like this out to be like GWAR's sleazy p. martini or something. a lot of bands choose managers, i'd argue, to help them remain independent – so that they can work with someone and get things done on their own terms without it consuming every waking hour of the day.

there's a weird undercurrent to the argument against management and press and ancillary dudes that those are somehow people who are going to cover the way a band does business in like grime or something, like they're rendered unclean by association. i'm not really feeling that for the reasons i've described above. the strike thing is totally arbitrary, which like i've said is the whole problem with the argument. fugazi did it. fugazi had a lot of other factors at play. fugazi got lucky, in a lot of ways. i'm not denying that it's impossible, i'm denying that to say "canada's a big fucking country and touring it for two months and then touring it again in three months for another two month stretch is going to be extraordinarily difficult to coordinate, i could use some help," it doesn't make you less independent. it makes you an adult aware of how much work you can feasibly handle. it's that shit, mostly, not the mercury records argument, that has my back up.
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Johnny C

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like, again – the weakerthans? g7 welcoming committee? anarchist press? julie doiron, jagjaguwar, sappyfest? when god told jonah "find me one person who hasn't committed a sin here and i won't blow up the town" he was being way too harsh, i think in the 21st century we can admit that.
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this is one of those rare occasions where i actually agree with johnny.


...but i'm pretty open-minded so if tommy makes a decently compelling argument, my mind could be changed.
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tommydski

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Quote from: Johnny C
it makes you an adult aware of how much work you can feasibly handle.

Ah, the benign implication being that absolute control is infantile. This point usually comes in the independent versus mainstream debate in one form or another so it doesn't phase me much. Usually it's implied in the sense that independent bands are small fry and need to get real etc. Okay.

Literally thousands of bands have successfully toured nationwide and globally, having entirely booked their own shows. With no manager. Some with no label, independent or otherwise. Some with no records to sell, having never been in a studio. You and I know this, we personally know people who do this all the time. It's definitely possible, though obviously it's also a shit ton of work. I think the people who do it on their own are different from the people who hire in other people to deal with other aspects of their bands' operation. Let's call the people who run the whole show themselves "indie" like we used to and call the people on major labels with managers etc something else.
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tommydski

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like, again – the weakerthans? g7 welcoming committee? anarchist press? julie doiron, jagjaguwar, sappyfest?

They can all stay too.

Unless your contention is that these bands and labels can seriously be called the same as The Arcade Fire I don't really see the comparison.

These entities are not the same as The Arcade Fire, there are many differences. Let's call the above "indie" and The Arcade Fire something else.
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Johnny C

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those bands have fucking managers dude is my point though, like they do all that stuff and have someone with a calendar somewhere that says "john c – the carillon – 2:00 pm, sunday" and that calendar does not negate the awesome stuff they have done that is also totally antithetical to like corporatized ethos. unless you're going to argue that having a festival where shotgun jimmie is a headliner is corporatized.

Quote from: Johnny C
it makes you an adult aware of how much work you can feasibly handle.

Ah, the benign implication being that absolute control is infantile.

what are you talking about dude what are you talking about

look, i think i was like really clear – i don't deny that other bands can do it. i'm categorically saying that is not the only way you can be "independent" and that it is completely arbitrary to draw any lines beyond "major label." and i'm saying that telling anyone out there looking to become a touring and recording artist that hiring a press guy officially makes you no longer independent is to basically do what a lot of other fairly insidious cultural forces in the 21st century are already conspiring to do which is to slowly and implicitly make the performance and recording of independent music that is viable in a long-term sense the province of the rich, a leisure-time thing for people who can afford to spend the time booking shows and stuff. you are constantly suggesting bands should have day jobs and do music as a hobby, dude – and while it may be feasible to do that and still have like enough success as a band to stay afloat, i think it's an unreasonable thing to force on someone if they want to wear the "independent" mantle.

i'm saying that if you're looking for independent ethics it's way more unethical to tell a kid that he's sold out if he's at the point where he's able to afford a hand in booking a cross-country tour than it is to hire that guy to book. not everyone's some kind of creepy weird middleman out to grease his own palms. these people have jobs and they do them really well and they frequently assist bands who are going to likely avoid major labels for the duration of their career because there's a huge difference between a major and ken from killbeat. there's no one true path to being independent. that's a hard-line position that's unrealistic not because it's impossible but unrealistic because it is unyielding to the situations of various people.
« Last Edit: 15 Feb 2011, 16:49 by Johnny C »
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tommydski

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Quote from: JC
and while it may be feasible to do that and still have like enough success as a band to stay afloat, i think it's an unreasonable thing to force on someone if they want to wear the "independent" mantle.

Then don't wear it. It's completely optional. The fact that people desire to be considered an independent band but don't want to do the stuff which being an independent band entails is bizarre. So don't do it, find another way to do it. Don't torture yourself if it's impossible to you, just do what you like. My problem is all the bands who want the prestige and I honestly think the sales of being considered an independent band but don't actually want to do the actual work. At the point where control of your band is in the hands of other people in too many ways, I'm going to personally cease registering you as an indie band.

Oh no, these poor bands. How will they ever survive being relegated from thy hallowed indie rock of yore by powerful scribe Tommy Dski etc.
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tommydski

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As I said earlier though, I will concede that maybe having other people do certain jobs doesn't necessarily preclude you from being an independent band but once you hit a certain point, it's just not accurate to call a band indie because they no longer resemble the bands who are actually doing the absolute control thing.

The Arcade Fire reached that point a while ago. They are resolutely different from even other bands on Merge and it's because of the concessions they made to the existing mainstream music industry rather than artistic merit. How did that Superchunk record do by comparison? I wonder if the Destroyer record is in for a Grammy next time around?
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scarred


it's just not accurate to call a band indie because they no longer resemble the bands who are actually doing the absolute control thing.

I probably shouldn't jump into this discussion, but there's been such a deluge of people and critics calling shit "indie" or "indie rock" that it's gotten to the point that indie itself has become, in a lot of minds and representations of indie culture, a style of music rather than a way of conducting business.
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tommydski

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True but in this instance I believe journalists were referring to the fact that they're on Merge in the US, which is correct.
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imagist42

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I am pretty sure independent is not a thing you either are or are not. Like with just about everything, there are different degrees and I think it is fair to say Arcade Fire are leaps and bounds more "indie" than anything else that has recently been in the American mainstream spotlight.
« Last Edit: 15 Feb 2011, 17:31 by imagist42 »
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Then don't wear it. It's completely optional. The fact that people desire to be considered an independent band but don't want to do the stuff which being an independent band entails is bizarre. So don't do it, find another way to do it. Don't torture yourself if it's impossible to you, just do what you like. My problem is all the bands who want the prestige and I honestly think the sales of being considered an independent band but don't actually want to do the actual work.

i dunno dude, that whole argument really strikes me as like a kind of macho "this is our way" sort of thing. i think it's infeasible for a lot of bands, bands who otherwise operate with fairly strict adherence to an ethos that says they're making stuff they like because they like it rather than because it's a thing that will Move Units. and like i think it's also again not even so much unfair as frankly wrong to suggest that all the bands i've listed who enlist someone to do press or booking or whatever want to be called indie but "don't want to do the work." maybe they do, and that work entails moving around the country and playing music and putting together records and rehearsing and working to be able to afford those tours, and working to run a record label, and working to run a venue, and etcetera, etcetera.

i mean these estates do stuff on the cheap and the quick & dirty and aim largely for DIY stuff but that's just because that's kind of the way we want to run things, not because it makes us more indie. and i don't look down on a band fortunate enough to be able to hire a booking agent or press guy so that they can spend hours in their day instead actually being able to make art. and i don't think that those bands are less independent than us. they're more stable, maybe. or they're more viable. or more successful. good for them. they're not less indie because of it. they've worked hard, and so have we. i'm morally very wary of negating that by saying "well you're no longer independent." what are they no longer independent from? their own time?
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tommydski

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I am pretty sure independent is not a thing you either are or are not.

This is the most common argument, can't believe it took us that long to get here. The arbitrary abstract distraction argument.

I mean, like, what really is music anyhow? Can anyone really own sound, maaan? Is The Arcade Fire that I hear the same band as the one you hear? I'll bet this is how dogs see.

No, the bands on independent labels are independent and the ones on major labels aren't.

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I think it is fair to say Arcade Fire are leaps and bounds more "indie" than anything else that has recently been in the American mainstream spotlight.

Recently? Sure. I'd argue that the early days of Ruthless and Death Row Records were more significant though.
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tommydski

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i mean these estates do stuff on the cheap and the quick & dirty and aim largely for DIY stuff but that's just because that's kind of the way we want to run things

The Arcade Fire don't, at least not any more.

If one were to list all the many differences between these two bands, I'd argue that they were substantial enough to warrant different headings. How about we call These Estates "indie" and The Arcade Fire something else, to demonstrate these obvious distinctions?
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Johnny C

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"successful"
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Yeah, that's true Jens. Seems sort of silly but yeah, that was the general idea behind that joke. It's pertinent again I guess.

Also, I got all the way through this discussion without mentioning Vincent Moon.

Wait, shit.
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the arcade fire
hehe
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imagist42

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I am pretty sure independent is not a thing you either are or are not.

This is the most common argument, can't believe it took us that long to get here. The arbitrary abstract distraction argument.

I mean, like, what really is music anyhow? Can anyone really own sound, maaan? Is The Arcade Fire that I hear the same band as the one you hear? I'll bet this is how dogs see.

No, the bands on independent labels are independent and the ones on major labels aren't.

I didn't say anything about relativistic perception. I'm talking about relativistic identity, which is pretty clearly a factor. I mean, how do you distinguish an independent label from a major one? Sure we know all the major players now, but some of these more successful independent labels are encroaching on "major" status and how can you possibly narrow that definition to a point where you say "this is the line"? Especially as the industry digitizes and being backed by a major label doesn't even necessarily grant you more overall exposure than an independent label that is damn good at working the Internet.
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tommydski

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I mean, how do you distinguish an independent label from a major one? Sure we know all the major players now, but some of these more successful independent labels are encroaching on "major" status and how can you possibly narrow that definition to a point where you say "this is the line"?

Not signed by or working with Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Group, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group. That's the line, same as it ever was.

We can pretend otherwise I guess but at the point where you're having to shift the boundaries to include a band, we're really reaching.

Especially as the industry digitizes and being backed by a major label doesn't even necessarily grant you more overall exposure than an independent label that is damn good at working the Internet.

They sold a pantload before a major got involved but they were pushed to the summit using conventional mainstream media advertising etc. Internet dorks download, your mom does the actual buying records.

Funeral sales up to release of Neon Bible:
US (300M people) - 300K
UK (60M people) - 500K

Neon Bible week one sales:
US - 92K
UK - 72K

Suburbs week one sales:
US - 157K
UK - 62K

Again, let's put that up against Destroyer or Superchunk (also on Merge) and see how it goes. I wonder if the band who incidentally has a major label deal outside of the US is going to sell more records?
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i dunno dude, that whole argument really strikes me as like a kind of macho "this is our way" sort of thing.
Macho posturing? In my punk-derived music scene?
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Wait, isn't that showing that they're selling progressively worse in the country where they actually are with a major label? That's an interesting phenomenon.

Also, I'm not saying Arcade Fire is the pinnacle of independent music, just that (as you conceded earlier) they do take a much more independent approach than their current competition. And there are "major" aspects to some bands that are far more independent than Arcade Fire. Like, I don't see anyone looking at the band and calling them label's boy sell-outs in the same way as Lady Gaga. Just being on a major label does not totally exclude people from having a (even slightly) less than mainstream approach to their own music.
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It shows that as a proportion of population, the Arcade Fire fanbase is much larger in the UK than the US, doubly so prior to Neon Bible.

Anyway, as Johnny/Tommy say I think we're operating under a fair bit of equivocation when we use the word "independent" like that.
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As a percentage, the UK sales are significantly better. Selling a combined total of 134,000 records in two opening weeks in a country where the population is about sixty million people is remarkable!

I remember I was working in London when the second record landed and every magazine cover, newspaper, advertising hoarding, TV show with a musical guest spot and radio station featured The Arcade Fire for seemingly months on end. The entire London Underground had an advert for Neon Bible on every single surface to the point where the trains looked like they were Arcade Fire trains and they had honest to God billboards everywhere around the country. These weren't cheap, they were funded by major label money. This probably had knock-on effect outside of Europe too. Around the same time, they suddenly featured in several different television campaigns in the UK (there was a point where 'Wake Up' was being used by the BBC and Sky for three distinct shows, I assume the band wasn't even consulted for stuff like this, it legitimately does just happen when you're on a major label). I remember seeing adverts for the album on those advertising hoardings they have around the pitch at football games!

Mercury orchestrated a huge advertising campaign and it paid off big time. Worked out great for Merge too, so that's great.
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imagist42

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Re: Equivocation: Yeah, probably. I don't see the difference between major and indie stemming as much from a strict monetary definition as from a different approach to the product, i.e. producing something the way you feel it should be, public reception be damned vs. producing something to sell. While both of these variables go hand in hand (creating something that will sell inevitably means you'll have more money to work with) the latter is more the approach from which I entered the discussion. Despite being backed by a major label, I still feel like Arcade Fire are far more genuine with themselves, their music and their fans than just about anything else on a major label.
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tommydski

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calling them label's boy sell-outs in the same way as Lady Gaga.

Incidentally, Lady Gaga may make godawful music but what she participated in from a marketing perspective is astonishing and she indisputably worked her ass off in a different way.

With Katy Perry or whoever, there's always a lot of speculation as to whether it's just tits and ass which sells this kind of music but LG is a very unconventional woman in terms of her appearance, to put it diplomatically. Even with all the major label clout she has, it's pretty amazing that a fairly unremarkable looking young woman suddenly became the biggest pop star in the world through shrewd marketing and force of will. Also I'm not really sure how she could be a sell-out, I'll bet she set out to be a pop star. Seems honest enough to me.

I still feel like Arcade Fire are far more genuine with themselves, their music and their fans than just about anything else on a major label.

Disagree. I'm sure all bands on major labels are feeling it too. I very seldom think a major label band isn't absolutely convinced that what they're doing is awesome.

This whole perceived idea that "indie" bands are feeling it more is part of the reason major labels started using the word as a marketing tool. They appropriate the supposed authenticity of underground groups in an effort to imbue their acts with grit etc.
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imagist42

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Lady Gaga may not have been the best example (in fact for the mainstream her songs actually tend to be unconventional, if horribly bland, boring and sometimes downright offensive for my tastes), but Katy Perry's name just didn't come to mind. I'm actually really bad at pop culture. Most of the people I know make fun of me for it. I should get different people.

Anyway, I don't think bands have to suffer crippling self-doubt and be totally conscious of everything they do that's top-notch to be genuine. What I mean is, I think they are doing what they're doing because they actually believe it's awesome, not just because money is awesome and this thing makes us money. I think they make a few concessions for the money, but they're not, say, Nickelback. Of course, that's pretty much impossible to definitively judge even if you are the band and not just some outside nobody like me.
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Johnny C

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i just remembered another band that up until very recently did everything by themselves for the two years in which they were increasingly popular, and they did so without the interference or greased palms of a press guy or a manager while avoiding corporate interference! too bad they sold out over xmas
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Who won best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal anyways!?
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Johnny C

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jethro tull
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Deservedly so.
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Fuck yeah, Jethro Tull.
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Dear Americans,
Arcade Fire are friggin' huge over here and are actually quite good.
Sincerely
The UK.

P.S. This thread is now about Jethro Tull. Fuck yeah.
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I do not understand the tweets that are all like "how can a band I don't know win album of the year?"

I mean, I don't really like Arcade Fire that much (I've never given them a proper chance) but I know that loads of people really like them. I guess this may be a UK versus US thing?

</repeating what has already been said>
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The Brit Awards weren't anything to shout about really. Arcade Fire did well but obviously are known better over here - I still can't quite believe Tinie Tempah got away with 2 awards...but then again the entire list is singularly unimpressive. Its best to just ignore awards ceremonies anyway.

Best British Male Solo Artist -    Plan B
Best British Female Solo Artist - Laura Marling
Best British Group - Take That
Best British Album -  Mumford and Sons - "Sigh No More"
Best British Single - Tinie Tempah - "Pass Out"
British Breakthrough Act - Tinie Tempah
Best International Male Solo Artist - Cee Lo Green
Best International Female Solo Artist - Rihanna
Best International Group - Arcade Fire
Best International Album - Arcade Fire - "The Suburbs"
International Breakthrough Act - Justin Bieber
Critic's Choice - Jessie J
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I think it speaks about how over-saturated they have been in the media in the UK because so many people over here assume they are like the biggest band in the world. Turns out they haven't really sold many records by comparison in America, though they are obviously big in Canada too.
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I was shown that Jessie J video and I made it about three seconds into the first verse and then I couldn't stand it so I shit it off. Seriously, it may be the worst song in the world.
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tommydski

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i just remembered another band that up until very recently did everything by themselves for the two years in which they were increasingly popular, and they did so without the interference or greased palms of a press guy or a manager while avoiding corporate interference! too bad they sold out over xmas

Their method of selling music online without any label wasn't actually nauseating until they started doing all those adverts even if their music was always overly-twee opportunist bullshit.

Plus they don't actually do the live shows or touring, which I think is fairly integral. Even electronic acts can represent their music in the live arena so these dudes could do it too, they just don't want to I guess. Like I said, it's a system of strikes and these dudes don't have a pin standing even without a major label deal. They work for Toyota and Hyundai, which is fine. It's not indie though.
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Best British Female Solo Artist - Laura Marling

I'm not overly familiar with the British female solo artist scene so I'm not qualified to say whether she's the "best" or not but Laura Marling is legitimately really good and her most recent album was fantastic.
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So, what I'm being lead to understand here is that bands on major labels can be independent.

Really?

Is this really the point being argued here!?
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tommydski

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Not really, it's basically a discussion about where as individuals we draw the line at perceived independent status.

My argument is that being on a major in one country, specifically the UK, has a knock on effect in the US and elsewhere to the point where the descriptor "indie" ceases to have contextual relevancy.

JC's argument is that regardless, they are on an independent label in America and have retained sufficient control that it's still a fair word to use.

Both stances have a certain amount of merit.
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