So, Does “Indie” Really Mean Anything Anymore?

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“Indie cred” used to stand for something.

It meant selling 7-inches at local record stores, not paying radio stations for spins, and not watering things down for mainstream acceptance.  But these days, everyone has direct access to the fan, major labels are weaker than ever, and traditional endpoints like terrestrial radio are losing influence.

Meanwhile, the worlds of indie and major seem increasingly blurred.  So-called indie bands are often upstreamed into the major label world (for example, Interpol onto Capitol), and so-called “indie distributors” like RED are often owned by majors (in this case, Sony Music Entertainment).

So, what does “indie” really mean anymore?  And, is it dead?  That was the smart question asked by Paste writer Nick Purdy, who chatted with A2IM chief Rich Bengloff on the matter.  Bengloff pointed to continued access issues involving traditional brick-n-mortar retailers and radio stations, offering a reminder that old-school formats still wield considerable influence.  But Bengloff is stumping for many of the same issues as the RIAA, including anti-piracy objectives (A2IM supports ‘graduated response’); demands for recording royalties from terrestrial radio plays, and even DMCA-related concerns (A2IM is working to appeal the outcome of Veoh v. UMG).

So what is the difference then?  In the digital sphere, Bengloff also pointed to issues getting exposure on platforms like the iTunes Store.  But anyone can upload and chart on iTunes these days, and an artist website is a dedicated showcase and retailer unto itself.  In that light, is the term “indie” just another relic of a not-too-distant past?  It’s a question worth asking…