Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Actual indie labels less than thrilled by 50% indie chart

The Guardian's Louis Pattison asks indie labels about the new rules for the Independent Chart.

They're not that impressed:

Allison Schnackenberg of Southern Records, which acts as an umbrella label for Dischord, Kranky, Crass Records and Ipecac Recordings, among others, describes the new rules as "an absolute con". The issue is the "50% or more" rule, meaning that labels can receive a significant chunk of major-label funding and still qualify as "indie". "It's turning the independent charts into yet another marketing ploy for major-funded ventures," she says. "They are blurring the lines to the point that the word 'independent' will be meaningless to the general public. One is either independent or not. You can't be 'mostly independent.'"

Stewart Green from Beggars is a little more welcoming, but has his doubts about indie as a concept:
"Without getting too philosophical, what does 'indie' mean anymore? It's been used and abused to represent a watered-down form of guitar music rather than a totem for original, innovative, challenging music. So work needs to be done to reposition what the term 'indie' actually means – it cannot be allowed to be a term lost forever to a genre of guitar music! The success of the charts and breakers chart will depend on coverage. They need to be embraced by media outlets and given the space to exist alongside the commercial chart. Perhaps only then we will stake a claim to a truly interesting, diverse and meaningful independent chart."

To be fair, though, Stewart, the reason why 'indie' became synonymous with thin-legged boys playing guitars and wearing black jeans is surely in a large deal because that's the sort of music which used to dominate the indie charts? Given that the new big idea is a chart, I wouldn't hold my breath for a change in what that means.

And, from a broader listener's point of view, is there any real value at all in having a term which identified music not by its genre, but by the structure of the company which released the track? I'm pretty convinced that the idea clung to by Sony, for example, that "being on Sony" means something to a consumer is a desperate fallacy; for people who get their music between Chris Moyles' monologues and out the rack at Tesco, what difference is knowing a Bon Iver record is selling more copies than a different album released by a small label really going to make to them?