The Rise of the Independent. Part I.

Written by Sorana Santos on Friday the 9th of July 2010

It's been a long time coming and will be a long time here. The Record  Industry is changing. No. It has changed. Beyond all recognition and predictability. It seems as though the people have finally spoken and are voting with their feet... OK, er, fingers, as the shift to digital download continues in the face of the Industry's attempts to halt it in its tracks, pardon the pun. Strange that so many have yet to cotton on to this and still rely on 'Who's signed to Who' as a mark of quality and calibre in an artist. No sir. Those days are long gone. Why not ask yourself: Who's our generation's Stevie Wonder? Who's our Pink Floyd? Who's our Bob Dylan? Kate Bush? Joni Mitchell? The list of alleged irreplaceable's is endless... and yet these names get bandied around every time a Major decides its profit margin is in trouble and sign a willing and complicit puppet to shoulder their growth, ironically, usually an artist who hasn't a modicum of the talent their original counterpart(s) had in their toenail. Is John Legend really developing singing/songwriting/producing as Stevie Wonder did in his day? Is Laura Marling really plumbing the same depths as Joni Mitchell? Honestly: does La Roux really have the level of production skills that Kate Bush does? Do people not ask themselves questions any more?

It is not possible that the human race has changed so much that people as great as these 'irreplacables' no longer exist- so what's happened? Well, the Industry has stopped investing in them in favour for a quick return; as my old friend Andy Boyd, Babyshambles manager used to say: "The music industry is a machine; you shove a fiver in one side of it and tenners pop out the other end. Why change what you're doing? Just keep shoving the fivers in!".

The Industry's obsession with a quick return is a reflection of the development of our commercialist, individualistic society; it is often said amongst us musicians that there are actually no musicians in the Record Industry... sorry to burst the bubble on that but in the main it's true, it's essentially a business run by business men to a business model, but the business model is outdated now and new structures are beginning to emerge. Sadly, as the Independent busily feathers their nest with the fruits of their labour, the Industry continues to "shove the fivers in", embarrassingly producing stream after stream of artists that sound only a little bit different than the artist who had a 'hit' before it and then having the gumption to buy the PR to declare they're/she/he/it is  "The next Kate Bush"... pity the fools! But more so, pity those that buy the hype! I sometimes wonder whether we're just actually nation of fools who just buy into whatever we read whist reciting the cliche "You can't believe everything you read" mantra-like in some sort of ill-informed irony; it certainly feels that way sometimes, particularly having worked a little in the inside of this 'Machine' and seen the 'real' stories for what they are. Moreover, pity those who are foolish enough to want to be admired by these fools; they're the most foolish of the lot.

But I digress...

With less money to pour into the niche alternative artists they used to own, the crumbling Record Industry is failing to cater for an inordinate number of people. This inordinate number of people are being catered for, in part, by the rise of the independent artist who through the use of online digital media, is feathering their nest nicely without the hype and pretense of the industry.

It makes sense: if you're any good at what you do as a musician, (actually, even if you're not), why sign to a Major Label when you can make more money on your own and maintain yourself a fanbase that is more loyal than that of a Major? Further, by working online you immediately cut the gigantic costs production and distribution usually bring and, when all's said and done, you don't have as huge a list of people to pay off before you get your share. You wear what you want. You work with the producers/musicians you want to work with (studio equipment is generally both affordable and portable these days, negating the need for you to even book a studio). You make something that's the best possible expression of where YOU are at that moment in time. You book your own schedule. You maintain your relationship with your fans. You are your own master. You build something of value. Ultimately this is more work, but worth it, no? One need only look at the success that is Zoe Keating and also at the beautiful production skills of my pal Matt Calvert of Three Trapped Tigers as two proofs in this ever-expanding pudding.

There is much to say on the matter than the above, but I am going leave it there for now and let the above serve as a brief introduction to Journal entries to come; instead, I offer my contribution to the movement herewith: About four months ago, Lyrebird (in conjunction with Jazz Singer-Songwriter Kaz Simmons) started a night at independent Jazz venue with the premise of promoting independent artists in independent venues, deviating from what has been the norm and supporting those that strive to. This month we are extraordinarily lucky to have the supremely talented Shakka performing a one-off acoustic set featuring Lyrebird's Christopher Lane on guitar and Yasmin Baker on piano (an immense singer-songwriter in her own right). Click on his link and download his EP - you will not be disappointed. I ought to point out that the focus here is on songwriting ability and pure top-level musicianship alone, so I'm afraid that anyone expecting catwalk-style-over-content-strutting had best go elsewhere.

If you would like to come and hear what great artists do when they ditch Major labels in favour of the Independent life (or, the I-life, as I've been calling it), here are the details of our next gig:

Wednesday 14th July
Oliver's Music Bar,
9 Nevada Street,
SE10 9JL

£5 entry. Doors open at 8pm. Music from 9pm.

'Till the next installment, have the very best of times and hope to see you there. Sorana x 
p.s. We haven't got a name for this night yet suggestions welcome.
Tags for this post: olivers music bar, lyrebird, Sorana Santos, shakka.
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