State of the Scene: Bands
Once a year, the President goes on public television and states how the country is doing- it’s called the State of the Union address. Here at IndependentClauses, we don’t run the scene, but we do a pretty fair job of covering it. Thus, this is my state of the scene address for 2006. I’m splitting it up into two parts: one part for bands and other part for listeners.
Here’s 2006 for you indie bands: good luck, cause no one’s on your side. There’s an excess of bands and a minority of talent, labels are going down, zines are closing, and fans are less loyal than ever- which all means there’s a heck of a lot more work involved in being a band than there used to be.
The main problem this year is that with technology getting cheaper and cheaper, it’s easier than ever to record, duplicate, design and distribute CDs. This unfortunately means that anyone who plays guitar can emulate their favorite band and make a CD of it, which they subsequently send to labels and e-zines. This makes it harder for bands with actual talent to get noticed because after listening to ten packages of crappy pop-punk, juvenile nu-wave emo, and shaky-vocals acoustic artists, it’s hard to believe that the next package is going to be any better. Thus, the reviewer/record label gets backlogged out of sheer apathy for it all, and the good bands go unheard.
This happened to Splendid E-zine (www.splendidezine.com)- they got so many open submissions that they couldn’t handle them all and they recently closed their doors. They had the policy of reviewing everything they got. Lots of it was sucky or mediocre, and Splendid got so backlogged in the junk that they had to stop the zine (to the detriment of the good music). That’s a very sad thing.
Indie labels aren’t as good as they used to be, either- my two favorite labels Deep Elm and Tooth and Nail are both in a bit of a rut. Both have developed a scary affection for nu-wave emo- Deep Elm with Fightstar and Eleven Minutes Away and Tooth and Nail with Spoken, The Classic Crime, and Far-less. Both do have some fight in them- Latterman and Small Arms Dealer are brand-new and stinking amazing on Deep Elm, while the backbone of Tooth and Nail is still brilliant (Starflyer 59, Joy Electric, Further Seems Forever, Mae, MeWithoutYou, and –if they stick around- Showbread). It’s just been a down year. Militia Group is doing pretty well- they aren’t very focused, but they sign good music. Basically, there’s not really a label for any cutting edge indie sounds any more. My guess is that Common Cloud records will soon fill this gap, as the small label’s signings are all brilliant [The Felix Culpa, Towers (formerly known as Braille), Ammi…”>.
But a lot of disillusioned bands are skipping the record labels completely and going the DIY route. They go for soundtracks and advertisements- see this article for more info. I’m thrilled to hear that independent bands are able to make it on their own, but I’m sad that the modern music system has been broken so long that artists get no help in their quest.
Basically, this all boils down to one statement: God bless indie rock- cause nobody else is doing it any favors.