When you say the word indie rock, a lot of different thoughts come to mind. There’s the newbie musician hoping to land a record deal; the popular band that’s been perfectly happy releasing music on a small independent label; or a style of music. No one, though, would put indie and Taylor Swift in the same category.
But since 2006, Taylor Swift has, technically, been an indie artist — she’s released all her records on Nashville-based label Big Machine Records. And she’s not the only big name on an indie label; 273 independent artists were nominated for Grammys this year.
Other acts, such as Our Lady Peace, are technically indie, too. They left Sony Music to release their 2009 disc Burn Burn on their own, while Pearl Jam put out 2009’s Backspacer by themselves. While it’s true these labels are technically independent — they’re not owned by a major label — you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that would put Taylor Swift in the same category as The Meligrove Band, who are now on the small Toronto label Nevado Records.
Most people should know that, at least in the case of Swift, lots of major label money is flowing her way. But it still may be time to redefine what we mean by independent, especially as the majors become more marketing departments than record labels.
I’m not sure how to define an artist anymore, or even if we should. There are acts like Death Cab For Cutie who are on a major, but many still think of them as indie. Other independent acts get distributed through major labels — sometimes it’s the big guys who foot the promotion bill, too.
For years people have been wishing that the term indie would die a quick death and with more and more big name artists starting their own labels, now might be time to put the final nail in its coffin. People will define bands however they want, but maybe now we can finally let the music speak for itself.