A couple of years back, my mother bought a homemade bread-maker, and since then she has enjoyed baking bread for her family and friends. She spends the week before Christmas running around town, delivering homemade Christmas stollen to her friends. The breadmaking experience is highly-rewarding and fun for both my mother and everyone else involved. Yet my mother has never once said: I think I’d like to sell this bread on the open market.
Meanwhile in the world of music, Garage Band and slightly more sophisticated software have leveled the playing field for making “professional-sounding” music. No longer do guitar players need to go to all that trouble to recruit other members or gig around or go into expensive studios — making a finished CD can be done without leaving the bedroom. Techno music conveniently legitimized electronic sounds in the ’90s, so now even the indie kids are happy to drop the bassist and drummer and add in TB-303s and TR-505s. No one exemplifies this spirit better than Tokyo’s pico-pico scene whose sound is a fully mechanical version of guitar pop without the need of plural human participation. As the recording technology gets cheaper, there are more indie bands on the market than ever, which leads to the question: Why do we need to sell our indie music when we don’t try to sell our indie bread?
Pop music is a mix between product and art, but we are often blind to where these definitions come into play. Behind Top 40 songs is a successful product/information distribution network that remains closed to indie musicians. In the same way that our homemade bread cannot become a nationally consumed product, our indie music will almost never become a top ten hit — even though music today requires less and less physical distribution.
I fully applaud the breakdown of traditional barriers towards music production, but I fear that the information overload of too many bands is creating too much dependence on media authority and distribution systems.