indie pop

indie pop
   Although independent record labels have a long history, the origins of indie music are to be found in the development of punk rock in the late 1970s. Part of the punk ethos was a reaction against control of the music industry by a handful of large multinational record companies. Punk bands, motivated by a ‘DIY’ approach to music production, began to produce and distribute their own records; hence the name ‘indie’, an abbreviation of ‘independent’. As Punk gave way to new wave, a new generation of record labels were formed to promote new music, the pioneers being Rough Trade and Stiff in London, Postcard in Glasgow, Zoo in Liverpool, two-tone in Coventry and Factory in Manchester.
   Indie scenes began to spring up around these particular labels. The Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen from Zoo Records produced music that was influenced by the psychedelic rock of The Doors and The Byrds from the 1960s. Artists on the Factory label such as Joy Division developed a dour industrial sound. Bands signed to Rough Trade and Postcard were distinctive in their search for a ‘pure pop’ form, while Madness, The Specials and The Selecter, all bands signed to the Two-Tone label, were particularly influenced by ska and were characterized by their multi-ethnic origins. Many bands on indie labels shared a similar aesthetic, and as a result the phrase ‘indie’ began to be used to describe a particular generic sound, rather than merely the method of producing and distributing records. This aesthetic was based around a rejection of the excesses of progressive rock, with the preferred vinyl medium being the seven-inch single rather than the LP. As the 1980s continued, a whole array of indie bands and labels were formed. Bands on indie labels would release one or two singles that attracted the attention of the music media, and would then sign to a major label. Indie labels began to be seen as a breeding ground for new talent. Many internationally successful artists started their careers in this way. Towards the end of the 1980s, as indie labels began to expand, many developed formal links with ‘majors’, multinational record companies such as Polygram and CBS. This sparked much debate within the indie scene as to the ethics of breaking away from the original DIY ethos. In particular many indie labels maintained control of the signing of new bands and the production of records, while forming distribution deals with major labels. This was compounded by the collapse of the Rough Trade and Factory labels. Since then the phrase indie is generally considered to refer to a musical genre. Bands such as Oasis, signed to Creation, who now have financial links with Sony, are considered to be indie bands despite their lack of ‘independence’. Perhaps therefore the true indie bands of the 1990s are not the guitar-based groups with an indie ‘sound’, but those techno, house and jungle acts who continue to release and distribute their own records, without help from multinational companies.
   See also: alternative music
   Further reading
    Savage, J. (1991) England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock and Beyond, London: Faber & Faber.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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