Major vs. Indie: Follow Up
more thoughts on this:
I failed to mention the issue of creative control and marketing. In theory, major’s can help get artist’s music out to more people, and spend their own money on marketing, etc. However, they can also fail to do that very thing. Moreover, some bands have enough indie cred and/or strong weight to allow for their own creative control, chose their own producers, etc. But sometimes, or probably most often, major’s can assume the control and ruin a band.
In the case of Saves the Day, they had a following and indie cred, jumped to DreamWorks (which now no longer exists) and put out a record with a sound they had never before and have since never again really had. This was in part due to label execs tampering with the art and product of the very band they wanted to use to make money. I don’t personally blame STD and I also know that part of the sound chance had to do with the members of the band’s state of minds at the time. However, the marketing was nil, and the fans that came with the band mostly disliked the record. So STD got dropped after one record and went back to an indie (although Vagrant is a major indie, I supposed) and went back to being pissed off and angsty. So that is a case of major label fail, in my opinion. However, I didn’t swear off a band I’d enjoyed for years because of it.
Meanwhile, some bands basically start at the major label level, like The Killers… as far as I know, Hot Fuss was their first release. Maybe they had a live following in Vegas beforehand, but I have not once seen or heard of any early demos or early EPs or anything like that. They probably earned more creative control as they went on and changed their look and sound for each record. No label would request that they do that, because it just makes them harder to market and pigeon-hold into a sub-genre.
And my final example is a band I’m sure few of you have heard of yet, called Low Vs Diamond. They are an LA band who I used to watch in pizza parlors in Long Beach when they were called 1984. And I had them on my radio show after they’d changed their name to Colored Shadows. And I still go see them live and talk to them before and after the show now that they have settled on Low Vs Diamond, lost one member and added two. They are on Epic, they were in Rolling Stone, they have a music video and maybe even get corporate radio play. But you know what? Good for them! I know they like their music now and are happy to have moved past what they started off sounding like (not a huge change, but certainly a marked one). They moved to LA to pursue a career in music and they’re doing it. Unlike The Black Keys who had no intention of becoming a group with fans, but rather just liked messing around with recording equipment in their boring Midwestern town.
Bottom line is, major v indie is not a specific enough debate. As most things in life are, it’s a lot more complex and complicated.
And all of this can be applied to filmmakers and artists as well, as my first post did.