Unique Guitar Picks Created by Some Dude’s Pesopicks Stuart Brady

Before I get to my talk with Some Dude’s Pesopicks creator, Stuart Brady, I want to say a few words about the humble guitar pick.

If you play guitar, you probably know there are picks of all shapes, sizes, colors, thicknesses, designs, etc. 

You might even keep several guitar picks handy, and stop by the local guitar shop regularly to re-stock.  Picks are usually kept at the front of store and sold for under a dollar, near the other relatively inexpensive musical accessories like guitar strings, capos, etc. 

For such a small object, guitar picks are certainly an important part of guitar player’s setup.  They help define the sound, even though they don’t generally get a lot of credit.  

Guitar players can get rather particular about their picks, the more they develop a certain sound.  It is at this point that guitar players start to notice the different characteristics in the picks they like or dislike, and their preferences get more particular.

Some players want picks that have a grip, others like ’em smooth.  Some want them thicker, others want them paper thin.  Some like gimmicky picks that are covered in logos and designs, others like them with no symbols on them in just one color only. 

The type of pick you use depends on your own playing style more than anything, and that can take time to develop.

It’s worth mentioning, for the sake of beginner guitar players out there, that the type of pick does contribute something significant to the sound that’s being produced by the guitar. 

That said, guitar picks, for the most part, are made of plastic and many players don’t think about them much.  You just buy 10 for a dollar as you’re making other purchases, and if you drop them on the ground and lose them, many would say “Who cares?”

But some picks you might not want to lose.  

Pesopicks

The thing is, not all picks cost $0.25 and look cheap and shoddy.  Some guitar picks are worth showing off.

Enter: the Pesopick.

These unique picks are made from actual Mexican pesos by a dude by the name of Stuart Brady, AKA Some Dude.  In fact, his business name is Some Dude’s Pesopicks.

Here is the Pesopickdude himself standing with the late great Bill Paxton.

Stuart makes a living producing these Pesopicks by hand in his home state of Texas, home of some of the greatest guitar players of all time. 

He started making Pesopicks decades ago, in an effort to create a more durable, unique type of guitar pick that creates a deeper, richer sound.  They have other benefits as well, such as outlasting the person using them.

We were lucky enough to talk with Stuart about his prized creations.  We just had to get the lowdown on them straight from the source. 

Enjoy our Q&A with the the Pesopickdude!


What are Pesopicks?

Pesopicks are authentic Mexican pesos handcrafted into guitar picks.

How durable are these things?

They will last forever…the first one I made is owned by my best friend and is over 40 yrs old.  He still uses it everyday…they are heirlooms.

What do you like about the metal on metal sound?

They make your stringed instrument a little brighter and louder, creating awesome pinch harmonics…they are super fast due to less friction than other picks.

How much does a Pesopick cost?

They start at $50.00 and go up in price depending on type of peso and the work done to it.

What’s the difference between a Pesopick and your typical $.050 plastic guitar pick?

They don’t wear out and they wont harm strings…kinda of a nickel on nickel thing.

Is it true that Billy Gibbons has a soft spot for these picks?  Also, why does he like them so much?

Yes, Billy Gibbons loves them and I am currently making him a large order of them now. I believe he likes them because of the tones they create plus the mystique of the peso as a pick.

Who’s the intended audience of these types of picks?

The intended audience is anyone that wants to improve their technique and tone.

How long does it take to make one of these babies?

It normally takes me about an hour to complete one single pesopick…but I do about 30 to 50 in stages.

Do you ever run out of stock?

Sometimes I do run out of stock…but not for long…I have a lot of contacts.

How unique is each pick, would you say?

Each pesopick is unique, but they are consistent with the shape and size of a regular fender 357 style pick…they are never the same because of dings, dents and scratches on the face of the coin.

Do you use any other coins these days besides the peso?

Sometimes I’ll make a pesopick with a lire or shilling, or any cool high quality metal coin large enough.

Are they only good for rock music?

They work excellent on any electric guitar, acoustic guitar, or bass guitar without harming the strings.

Where can people get them?

They can be had by contacting me on Facebook at this time…however, a website is in the works and should be up and running soon.

Check out the Pesopick Facebook page!

The 5 Arguably Most Important Indie Bands of the Past 50 Years

AM

Wow! That’s a tall order. How am I going to narrow done the vast sea of indie bands in the last 50 years and choose only 5? Well, I’m going to try. After giving it a lot of thought, I hope I’ve arrived at a list that mentions the most important names in indie music. 

First of all, however, I think it would be rather helpful to define “indie music”, because it is a term that is used a fair bit these days, and for a long time I had no idea what “indie” was trying to describe about the music.

The technical meaning of the term “indie band” is a band that produces music independently from large, commercial record labels. They record and publish their own music themselves, or through independent record labels.

In other words, indie artists are in complete control of their music, instead of being managed and dictated by the commercial labels that monopolize much of the music scene.

Over time, the term “indie” has been thrown around and connotations have been added to its meaning. The term often hints at a band whose sound strays from the mainstream and the overdone, experimenting instead with their own style and producing something unique and different.   

So, with that in mind, let’s start naming the 5 arguably most important indie bands the world has seen these past 50 years.

The Velvet Underground
the Velvet Underground

We’ll start things off in the 1960’s with the Velvet Underground.

The band was formed in 1964 by singer and guitarist Lou Reed, multi-instrumentalist John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Angus MacLise who was later replaced by Maureen “Moe” Tucker.  

The quartet decided to name their band after a book called “The Velvet Underground” by an author named Michael Leigh about the hidden sexual subculture in the early 60s.

In their early days, their music was relaxed, almost gentle, with rhythmic guitar and droning sounds that had been influenced by La Monte Young.

In 1965, the Velvet Underground was introduced to artist Andy Warhol, who became the band’s manager for a time.

Warhol did quite a lot for the band. Aside from his iconic yellow banana on the album cover for “The Velvet Underground and Nico”, his reputation helped the Velvet Underground to gain in popularity and to obtain a contract with Verve Records. As manager and producer of their recordings, Warhol allowed them free-reign over their sound, thereby allowing them to keep their independence.

It was also Warhol who introduced the band members to German-born singer and model Nico, and it was his suggestion that she should join the band for some songs.

Between the years of 1966 and 1967, Warhol was hosting the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a multimedia roadshow that featured performances by the Velvet Underground combined with his own films.

The band’s debut album was called “The Velvet Underground and Nico”, and featured three songs sung by Nico. It was released in 1967 through Verve Records.

The famous album cover was designed by Warhol. The front cover showed a drawing of a yellow banana that was really a sticker, and the words “Peel slowly and see” were found at the top of the banana. If you peeled off the banana sticker from the cover, an unpeeled pink banana was revealed underneath.

Album cover

Peeld banana album cover

The album brought taboo themes into the open such as drug abuse, prostitution and S&M. The song “Venus in Furs” is based off the book of the same name by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, which talks about masochism and sadism.

“Heroin” and “I’m Waiting for the Man” are both about drug use. You can listen to “Venus in Furs” below.

The album “The Velvet Underground and Nico” truly showed the full range of the Velvet Underground, with droning and intense songs mixed with quiet and tender songs, such as “Pale Blue Eyes” and “Sunday Morning”. 

Reed’s experimental avant-garde guitar along with Cale’s viola and keyboard made the album stand out.

After the release of their first album, the band decided to move on from their manager Andy Warhol, in order to try a different direction and evolve in their music and style.

They released their second album “White Light/White Heart” in 1968, followed by a few others in the ensuing years. In 1969 they toured the US and Canada; however, they were still met with very little commercial success.

Eventually, Cale left the group due to creative differences with Reed. Cale wanted to be more experimental, while Reed wanted to keep the music more accessible to the general public. Reed eventually left the band in 1970 and it fizzled out after that.

Nico went on to pursue a solo career. Her debut album was “Chelsea Girl”. 

Reed went on to a long and storied solo career, highlighted with his Bowie collaboration album, “Transformer”, which had the famous song, “Walk on the Wild Side”, another taboo breaker. 

Reed’s career (and life) ended not long after he collaborated with Metallica on a project called Lulu.


The Smiths
the Smiths

Next on the list we have the 1980s band the Smiths. Consisting of Morrissey as singer, Johnny Marr as guitarist, Andy Rourke as bassist, and Mike Joyce as drummer, the Smiths were an indie rock band that formed in Manchester in 1982.

They were only active until 1987, but in those five short years, the Smiths succeeded in making a substantial mark on indie music history, influencing many bands to come. In fact, the Smiths have been called one of the most important bands to have come out of the British indie music scene.  Ok, let’s face it – maybe even THE most.

The band began as a duo in the spring of 1982 when Johnny Marr showed up at his old friend’s doorstep, Morrissey, and proposed the idea of starting a band. According to Morrissey, “We got on famously. We were very similar in drive.”

Their first compositions were recorded in Marr’s attic on his cassette recorder, along with a cover of the song “I Want a Boy for My Birthday” by the 1960s female band the Cookies.

After a few months of composing together, Morrissey came up with the name “the Smiths” for the band, because according to him, it was an ordinary name and the band was meant to relate to ordinary people.

the smiths

The first demos they ever recorded were their songs “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” and “Suffer Little Children”, through Decibel Studio.

Their first public performance was in October, 1982, at a student music and fashion show in Manchester.

After being turned down by a few record labels, the independent label Rough Trade Records agreed to release their single “Hand in Glove” which sold fairly well.

Something I found interesting was a comment made by BBC radio presenter John Peel upon seeing the Smiths perform at a gig in London. Peel said, “I was impressed because unlike most bands…you couldn’t immediately tell which records they’d been listening to. That’s fairly unusual, very rare indeed.”

I find this interesting because nowadays, it is obvious when a band has been influenced by the Smiths, but when they started, they were truly pioneering a new sound that hadn’t been done before. 

After the singles “This Charming Man” and “What Difference Does It Make” earned spots 25 and 12 on the UK singles charts respectively, the Smiths released their debut album, “The Smiths”, in 1984. 

You can listen to the song “This Charming Man” below, (one of my favourite songs).

Morrissey’s vocals were haunting, and his lyrics were of a personal nature; he made confessions in his songs that almost everyone has felt at one time or another. The words were forlorn and depressing but rung true for many. 

Often among the morose lyrics, the band added touches of lightness, even touches of black humour, such as in the song “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”, where Morrissey lists the things that make him most miserable in life, like “I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now”.

Sometimes, tragic lyrics were sung to upbeat music, creating a curious combination, such as the lyrics “In my life, why do I smile, at people who don’t care if I, live or die?” sung to a catchy and buoyant tune.

It was this frankness and honesty in their song-writing that made them so well-loved by others. They took the everyday feelings of ordinary people and put them in the spotlight. This inspired a genre of confessional rock. The Smiths became a cult favourite and still are today.

Read our article, The History of The Smiths for even more moroseness!


Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth was formed in 1981, born from the no-wave and noise-rock movement of New York City. The band was made up of singer and guitarist Thurston Moore, guitarist, singer and bassist Kim Gordon, guitarist Lee Ranaldo, and a procession of different drummers throughout the years that basically ended with Steve Shelley to form the classic lineup.

The band had its humble beginnings in the genre of no wave, a movement that was taking place in New York City in the 70s and 80s. However, as time went on, they evolved into a more conventional indie rock and noise rock group, although we use the term “conventional” loosely.

One of the most notable things about this band was their creativity concerning the guitar – Sonic Youth revolutionized the way rock bands treated this instrument. Not only did they use non-standard guitar tunings, but they also prepared their guitars using different tools, such as screwdrivers and drumsticks, to change the timbre of the guitar.

This was a very experimental and DIY approach to guitar playing and song writing. These techniques were unheard of before Sonic Youth came about, and so the band largely shaped and inspired the indie rock movement that followed with their creativity.

Sonic Youth played at Noise Fest in 1981. Afterwards, no wave musician Glenn Branca signed the group to his independent record label, Neutral Records.

They recorded their first five songs and released them as an EP, “Sonic Youth (EP)” through the label in 1982. It went unnoticed by many, but those who heard it reviewed it positively.

Their first album, “Confusion is Sex”, released in 1983, presented more dissonance than their first EP, which featured a more traditional post-punk sound.

The band toured in Europe and gained some popularity there. Then in 1984, their fame began to rise in New York as well.

Sonic Youth are best known for their innovations in the indie rock and punk genre. They pioneered new directions that other bands later followed.

We may as well throw in this great documentary, The Year Punk Broke, for anyone who hasn’t seen it.  We found part 1 on Youtube, so good luck piecing it together (or just go find it elsewhere, it’s not hard to find).


The Strokes
the Strokes

The Strokes are a band formed in 1998 in New York City. It is made up of singer Julian Casablancas, lead guitarist Nick Valensi, rhythm guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fabrizio Moretti.

The Strokes greatly contributed to the garage rock revival movement of the early 2000’s. Their debut album “Is This It”, released in 2001, ranked #2 on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Best Albums of the ‘00s, and is also one of my favourite albums.

There are two covers for this album. The one released in the UK is of a woman’s bare behind with a gloved hand resting upon it (this was actually an impromptu picture taken by photographer Colin Lane when his girlfriend came out of the shower naked). The one released in North America was a photo of particle collisions in the Big European Bubble Chamber. 

Is this it UK cover

Is this it US cover

Because of some controversy over a few of the band’s lyrics in the album, its release in North America was slightly delayed, and the song title “New York City Cops” had to be changed to “When It Started”. It was released in the US in October 2001 and was immediately well-received by critics.

The Strokes have said that they took inspiration from another of our most important indie bands, the aforementioned Velvet Underground.  That’s actually quite fair, since both bands are very much New York bands, who are both poppy and punky at once and rely on the charisma of a sort of anti-star lead singer.

After the release of “Is This It”, the band toured worldwide, and also played as music guests on some late night shows.

The band released their second album, “Room on Fire”, in October 2003. While it was slightly less successful than its predecessor, it still received great reviews. You can listen to the song “Reptilia” from their second album below.

The band continued to grow in popularity. At the end of 2005 they released a new single, “Juicebox”. They released their third album early in 2006, “First Impressions of Earth”.

The Strokes took jangling 70s punk and updated it with their own spin. They gave voice to their fellow New York punk musicians, and they also spurred a British revolution, headed by the Libertines and the Arctic Monkeys.

In fact, in the song “Star Treatment” from the Arctic Monkeys’ latest album, Alex Turner sings “I just wanted to be one of the Strokes”, showing the influence the Strokes had over many other bands who formed in the 2000s.


Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys

Speaking of Arctic Monkeys, they are the last band on my list. Arctic Monkeys have been my favourite band for a long time now. They’ve been around a while and they have definitely helped to shape the current indie rock scene.

Arctic Monkeys formed in Sheffield, England in 2002. The band is made up of Alex Turner on lead vocals, guitar and piano, Matt Helders on drums and vocals, Jamie Cook on guitar and keyboards, and Nick O’Malley on bass guitar and backup vocals.

Their debut album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” was the fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history, and the second fastest-selling indie rock album in the US.

The band started off playing small gigs in the early 2000s around their hometown, Sheffield. At their gigs, they gave away the 18-song demo that they had burned onto a CD, now called “Beneath the Boardwalk” to build a fan base in the town.

In May 2005, Arctic Monkeys released their first single, “Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys” through their own record label. It featured the songs “From Ritz to Rubble” and “Fake Tales of San Francisco”. They were beginning to grow in popularity in Northern England around this time.

Then in June 2005, the band was signed by the record label Domino. They chose this record label because they admired the way it was run. Owner Lawrence Bell operated the label from his apartment and only signed bands he knew and liked.

Their first single with Domino was “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”, which flew straight to the #1 spot on the UK singles chart.

In September 2005, Arctic Monkeys released their debut album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”. The album was given wonderful praise. Here is one of my favourite songs from that album. 

In 2006 Arctic Monkeys recorded the EP “Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys”, followed by their second album in 2007, “Favourite Worst Nightmare”, which received critiques that were as positive as their first album.

Favourite Worst Nightmare cover

Their ensuing albums are as follows: Humbug (2009), Suck It and See (2011), AM (2013) and Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino (2018), as well as a live album, At the Apollo (2008).

Arctic Monkeys’ genre of music has been called indie rock, garage rock and post-punk revival. They have been highly praised for their intricate and poetic lyrics. Their early songs talk a lot about life in their town in the UK.

Their lyrics, sung in Alex Turner’s iconic deep voice and Sheffield accent, neither romanticize life nor do they deprecate it; rather, their lyrics are true, poetic, and at times sentimental.

Their songs include themes of romance (as in “505”), nostalgia (as in “Fluorescent Adolescence”), night life (as in “From Ritz to Rubble”), and personal desires and troubles (as in “I Wanna be Yours”).

The band has aggressive and upbeat songs such as “Brianstorm” and “Do Me a Favour”, danceable songs such as “Knee Socks” and “Do I Wanna Know”, and slow, sentimental songs such as “Piledriver Waltz” and “Only One Who Know”. I am always impressed by their versatility.

 Critics have also noted that some of the band’s sound has been influenced by the Smiths, number 2 on this list. Personal and thoughtful lyrics are a focus of Arctic Monkeys’ music, as well as drumming and electric guitar.

Arctic Monkeys are never afraid to try new things though; in their newest album (Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino), piano is brought into the foreground more than ever before, and the album has a totally different sound to their other albums, but still retains that Arctic Monkeys essence that makes them such an amazing band.  

Conclusion

While there are of course many other indie bands that have been influential to music over the past 50 years, these were the five that I found most note-worthy. Each band has contributed something unique and important to the indie scene.

Well, that’s it for me.  Bye!

What Does Indie Rock Even Mean Anymore?

At one point, the term “indie rock” seemed like it actually meant something. Does it still?  Did it ever?  These are the questions that we shout into the void today!

Why, some of us probably remember a time when “indie” type bands in the ’90’s used to actually make their own cassette mix tapes full of original music, and hand them out at shows for a couple of bucks.

hipster

Today, these music dorks promote themselves with free digital downloads, and make more eye contact.  Is this what passes for progress?  These days, you never know – your average dork may not even be a dork at all, but a total hipster douche in disguise – how rude!

Yessir, twenty years later, it’s fairly easy to argue that indie music or really indie anything is just pure posturing – eg. a co-opted hipster term that implies a person’s credibility in the creative sphere that may not exist.  This might seem like a jaded view, but you’d be surprised at how accurate it can be.

Look Out!  Here Come The Idealists

hippies on a bus

All movements, including the idea of independent music, starts off the same.  There is a pure idea, which eventually becomes tainted and flawed, and starts to break down.

Just like the hippies of the ’60’s with their idea of “flower power”, there was a point where the initial hippy movement was bursting with love and optimism. People were actually optimistic enough to think they could change the world. The real world was for squares, man!yuppies

And then…what happened?  The real world came a-knockin’.  War, corruption, money, hard drugs enter the picture…people started freaking out!  Kent State. Pictures from Vietnam….

It wasn’t long before the friendly hippies were replaced by soul-less yuppies walking down Wall Street, and Ziggy Stardust became the Thin White Duke.

Satellite Of Love

Before we’re blinded by our own self-loathing, let us all take a trip down memory lane…back to the idyllic 1950’s, before the music died, before JFK was shot, and before Vietnam…to a time when “indie music” had nothing to do with hashtags and Facebook likes and everything to do with music that was independently produced.  Yes, of course major labels did exist, but they weren’t as monopolistic as they eventually became.

Stax Museum Satellite Records

This would be around 1957, when small, independent record labels like Jim Stewart’s Satellite Records began cropping up in the United States.

Satellite Records started out being an independently run operation, working out of their garage and in love with country music.  They were just a modest franchise starting out, and they weren’t fixated on the bottom line so much. Although they started out as a country label, they slowly began to set their sites on releasing rock records.

Trade Offs

Obviously, when you have a business, the objective isn’t to remain small and obscure forever, so Satellite records had to eventually make some changes.  No matter what people say, love don’t pay no bills!

Here come the hits!

One handshake lead to another, and eventually the newly dubbed Stax Records (previously Satellite) partnered with Atlantic Records, a company dating back to 1947 with an interesting history of its own, having been started by two Turkish brothers who had a strong interest in R&B and jazz music.

By the late fifties, Atlantic was a huge company, and home to the likes of Ray Charles, hit producer Tom Dowd, and female vocal trio the Cookies.

Once Stax was effectively under Atlantic’s umbrella, Jim Stewart became a convert to rhythm and blues and began to heavily push that kind of music into the public eye, or ear.  And people really dug it, because jacked up blues music and the likes of Chuck Berry and other rock ‘n rollers were now in full command of the hit charts and the hearts and mind of the youth.

With the new muscle acquired through their Atlantic partnership, the real difference at Stax was that now releases which previously were only getting a small push in terms of distribution now were being reissued nationally.

Take, for instance, the song “Gee Whiz” by Carla Thomas, which started out as an indie release for Satellite Records.

When this song was first issued on Satellite Records, it was not a hit.  Why?  Perhaps because no one had a chance to hear it.  Gee Whiz was too “indie” for it’s own good, but once Atlantic began funding Stax, the song was re-issued to a wider audience in 1961, and became a hit.

We will leave off the Stax story there by saying that it is not hard to see both the pros and the cons of being independent.  There are certain things you can get done when you are “indie”, but when you decide to trade that in for bigger bucks and exposure, there are both benefits and sacrifices that will result from such a shift.

To Be Or Not To Be…Indie

owen-husney-and-prince-1970s

Over the years, the music industry has seen many people who try to ride the line between being independent, or going big.  Owen Husney is one such person that has seen both sides.  Famous for having discovered Prince (and then managing him), Owen is a guy who’s been there and done that in the music business.

Starting out being shoved into lockers for being too dweeb-y, Owen Husney later became the envy of the jocks (an enviable position if there ever was one) just by being a competent musician who played a few of the high school dances and impressed some of the girls with his guitar playing skills.  Oh how the tides do turn!

Owen Husney played in bands for a while, and eventually went on to much greater success later on by managing musicians such as Prince and others.

Here is an interview with Owen talking about the arc of his career and the vital importance of independence.

Clearly, Owen Husney has donned many mantles over the years, and his insight into what it means to work in the music industry is well worth paying attention to.  He also has a fairly solid grasp of what “indie” means, in the straightforward sense that it equates to having control of your affairs.

Of course, having control over absolutely everything you do sounds great in theory, but then it also means you actually have to do everything yourself, which is next to impossible once you scale your business beyond a certain point.

glam-metal-band

As many musicians have found out the hard way, when you want to become a “rock star”, and readily relinquish the control of your creative assets to others who are willing to do the job (for a fee, of course), you’ll soon be doing things according to other peoples’ wishes.  Rock star means means making money, but for who?

As soon as you let the big companies “lend a hand”, your precious independent business has to change and the control you may enjoy having over your own affairs – it goes away. This can mean any number of things, but you won’t get to find out what they might be until after you “let go” of the wheel, so to speak.

The Charts – Democracy Or Dictatorship?

nme-june-80-indies chart

According to the UK Indie Chart, at least as it was in the 80’s, what made records “indie” or not was, in fact, their method of distribution, and whether records were in some way connected to the four major record companies at the time, namely: EMI, Sony, Warner, and Universal.

This is a fairly logical assessment of what makes music indie or not – does it “sell out” to the big corporations, or not?  Of course, there are big music corporations out who behave as if they are independent, but are they really?

When hip hop and punk rock began to emerge in the late ’70’s / early ’80’s, there were many people who were fed up with the established major record label deals, and wanted to start up their own indie labels, which gave us Cherry Red Records out of London, Rough Trade (also from London), Curb Records from Nashville, and Sugar Hill Records from New Jersey, to name just a few.

One of Cherry Red’s first bands were the Dead Kennedys, a fiercely indie punk band from San Francisco…

The Capitalist Says…Second Place Is First LoserSugar Hill Records

Iain McNay from Cherry Red Records – who seems to care about music more than money – came up with the idea that allowed for the indie music of the day to have its own “indie” charts and ratings system, separate from Billboard and NME.

The first one of these independent charts came about in 1980 in Record Week.  This broadened the horizons of many listeners who were only familiar with the top hits, and provided an outlet for smaller and more obscure groups who might not have the finances or clout to get into the bigger magazines.

Genre was not a factor in the selection of these indie hits, and the first single to top those charts was Spizz Energi’s “Where’s Captain Kirk”.

To your average venture capitalist, it might seem odd indeed to actively provide a voice to independent artists who are worth a lot less than the hit acts in the way that Ian McNay was encouraging, and even more rare in those days when you consider how making space in magazines and putting ads on tv was a huge cost.

So, how long did this system last?  Apparently, until 2009 when the UK Indie Chart decided to let the major labels in on things a bit, by stipulating that songs had to be at least 50% independent, but could be 50% major label.

Watching Rome Burn

napster logo

The music industry, as flawed as it was, at least had the decency to be predictably hierarchical and corrupt for almost the entire 20th century.  Evil fatcats ruled the industry, and musicians were either generically summed up by said fatcats as rock stars who could be milked for cash or people of no importance whatsoever.

But… once file sharing became popular in the early 2000’s thanks to Napster, the music industry changed forever and there was no going back.

Read our full article on Napster

The term “indie”, as conflated as it had been up until then, was “liberated” along with all the files that zipped along the peer to peer pathways.  Geeks, always used to getting stuffed into lockers, could now stay trapped inside their dark & cozy lockers with a mobile device and download free music by their favorite artists until the janitor let them out sometime around 4pm.

Suddenly, to everyone’s amazement, the playing field was evening out around the world, with some of the world’s biggest bands getting holes poked in their formerly armor-clad copyrights and there was nothing they could do about it.

This paradigm shift seemingly allowed smaller musicians to gain a foothold in the industry by way of online platforms like Facebook and Youtube.  The age of online viral marketing had arrived, and musicians were free to use it as they pleased just like anyone else with access to a computer.  As far as the music business was concerned, all bets were off.  All you had to do is figure out the internet, and you too can get yourself a nice big fanbase!  Can’t afford a computer? Go to the library!

All of this online sharing AKA theft pissed off lots of bands at the time, including the extremely brand-protective Metallica who famously tried to take legal action against 300 000 of their fans for essentially stealing from them, and attempted to charge Napster $100 000 per song that was taken.  Metallica, as a result, was vilified and ridiculed all over the internet for treating their fans like criminals (even though they technically were and still are, every time they download a “free” song file).

The outcome of this Metallica vs. Napster lawsuit ended up bankrupting Napster later on, but it didn’t stop the technology from continuing to evolve.

Indie Today

With the development of various online platforms, of which there are now countless in number, it seems that any song or musician from anywhere in the world can suddenly become popular at any time, thanks to new types of promotion that didn’t exist just a few short years ago.  Some established bands who used to dominate the business realized that their tried and true methods weren’t going to fly anymore, and that either drove them out of the business due to loss of sales from file sharing, or forced them to learn how to market themselves in the age of the internet.

Despite all of this online hocus pocus that can provide a musician with an edge over the next guy, there’s still no substitute for hard work.  Although the music industry has seen rapid change in recent times, the word “independent” still retains the same definition as always. Maybe now there are just more people seeing music as a viable option for a career, but the same pitfalls as ever do still apply.

The optimist might say that, in fact, things are better than ever before.  Not only can you see your hard work pay off in less time, but you have the tools to work harder and reach more people faster.  We started off this article with some pessimism, so why not end on a somewhat more positive note.  Your music can be as “indie” as you choose it to be!  If you want to sell you soul, just make sure to have it appraised first.