Do Indie Artists Make Better Music Or Is That Just A Myth?

Entertainers would have us all to believe that the listening audience is a fickle lot. One second we are heralding an act as the greatest thing since sliced bread, then, when someone or something comes along with a catchier tune, there goes our attention. But, is it really that simple or are we just attracted to what sounds better, has presence and caters to our attraction to celebrity?

Sensibly, it is unlikely that there is a common reason why folks like
who they like. But, it does seem that lately, particularly among
purveyors of soul and organic hip-hop, that some of the most sought
after acts are usually those who flash the 'indie' moniker.
For every mainstream soul staple like Maxwell or Jill Scott, there is an Eric Roberson or YahZarah
being talked about in the blogs, headlining shows on the regular and
connecting with their fans in more accessible and everyday venues.

grind for indie artists is unmistakable, but the rewards seem to
outweigh the benefits of major label affiliation on some level when you
are able to still tour, still meet and greet your fans and still make
music by your own standards and wants. And, it seems that audiences,
who seem to be tossing their AM/FM radios aside for the preference of
online radio, are responding to the age of the indie artist. Ty Cohen, a former indie label owner and owner of Platinum Millennium Publishing says that rise of the indie artist is inevitable
nowadays with the easy availability of tech tools and the internet. But
will that rise impact the quality of music that we have unavoidably
begun to attach to music that is outside of the mainstream? Will the
indie underground soon become the mottled mainstream, or has that
happened already?

As a recipient of a lot of unwanted spam
from indie acts shopping new music, videos and tour dates, it is
becoming clear to me that the term "indie" no longer guarantees that
the music will be any more original or enjoyable than what can be heard
on your local radio station or seen on BET. The term, it seems, is
getting played out in a major way. So, what, if anything do we call
music we love that is not major label affiliated and isn't part of this
glut of music that is replicating the humdrum; could it be time to give
the indie underground a new name?

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18 Responses

  1. just cause somebody is underground doesn't make it better quality...and just cause somebody is mainstream doesnt make them garbage.

  2. What Sickwitit said

  3. I think that they do. Perhaps they are hungrier, and put their hearts and souls into every piece, or they are less encumbered by industry demands or expectations, I do not know, but the best music out now is being produced by indie artists.

  4. I'm an 'indie' (labels...*sigh*...) artist and as much as I would like to think that I've got something 'better' or more genuine than a major label artist, the bottom line is: Until you push play and hear what they have going on, you never know. Making assumptions works against you, not with you. I think I'm talented and have something to offer musically but just because I'm not on a major label doesn't make it so. All I can hope for is that I'm prepared to show and prove when an opportunity presents itself...:)

  5. I read Max Reddick's post and all I can think is: how do you make such a dismissive, arrogant statement like that when folks like Maxwell & Jill Scott are making such rich, vibrant, personal music with an abundance of craft & skill? Wow. It's kind of like saying Living Colour makes pretty good rock music for a bunch of n*gg*rs. Ouch.

  6. You make good points. I think with the internet and the social media craze, it gives everybody the opportunity to come on the scene as an indie. You don’t even need a label to make you relevant today. With that being said, you will have a lot more garbage under the guise of being an indie soulster or rapper. Indie has replaced neo soul as the identifier of “good” music. However, just because one is indie doesn’t make them nice musically. As much as I have found hidden gems throughout the years, I have a lot harder time finding great music today in the “indie is the new mainstream” era than I did when major labels embraced soul in the 90’s / early 00’s. I think the cycle is the same for most genres—an artist or two creates something innovative…shift produces great music…the genre gets flooded with a lot of clones…the music gets watered down and bastardized…time to sit on our hands and wait for the next musical savior.

  7. Seems silly all they way around to me. There is garbage indie music and there is great mainstream music. I think its interesting how people label things to appear ahead of the curve or cutting edge. Its limiting. I mean, I think we all know of an indie artist or two who became passe' when they signed to a major...did the quality of music change or the perception of the fair weather fan? Its all about digging thru the virtual crates & finding what YOU like. labels be damned.

  8. I hate blogs with a passion, yet I would like to say that this website is very,opinionating and informing on what it gives to the people whether they like it or not. It makes you explore different outlooks that no one even dares to explore, and this post is one of them. Shame me if you want for my comment. If somebody makes it big in this mainstream market (nothing but US and international popularity) or remains underground, an artist is an artist, singer is a singer, a rapper/MC is a rapper/MC, musician is musican...point, black, period. No questions asked. To me, I think it's discriminative who artist who aren't signed to the hottest record label right now has to be called "indie" or something like that. All the labels do is to categorize artist and make things easier for demographics. Even though proven so many times before that we have the top 4 records labels (UMG,SONY...) right now, it's nothing but a record label. That's the same for an "independent" record label (excuse for the label, but you see where I going with this). The only difference is that the "BIG 4" lasted longer and gaining more artist=more money because of it's popularity due to artists' mainstream appeal. But what strikes me the most is that, all this big labbels started small (which is what "indie labels" are, look at Mowtown) and ended up becoming big. So if these labels and their artist could hit it big, why can't any LABeL and thier artist can?
    Wait, the musical climate has changed and the top dogs of the music industy dictates what is what. TWO SYLLABLES, BULL-SHIT.
    In the end whether your indie or top 40, if your shit aint legit, your shit aint legit. If you put your soul into your music, best believe you will get a good response from ALL AUDIENCES. This isn't my opinion, that's an actual fact. Musicians beofre us proved it (Michael Jackson ,Stevie Wonder, Prince, Run DMC, Tribe, Boyz II Men, TLC and more). It's juSt that artist needs to fight for thier creative control,defend themselves, and trust their music because an ARTIST with a PASSION for their craft can get their share in this "mainstream" music industry because it was like that before. It''s a 50/50 chance, there are no gurantees, but it's possible. I also agree that all mainstream artist is bad and vice versa. If you don't put your heart and skillz into you music, you're SHIT IS WACK!

  9. "NOT ALL mainstream is bad and not all indie/underground is good. It dopends on the skillz of the artist". Sorry. But you catch my drift.

  10. There is some horrible indie music out there. At one time, the labels served as a filter for all of that. But now any one can put out a record. In general, the majors put out higer quality music. It may not be as innovative and I may not be a fan of the direction music is going in, but, I can at least sit through a listen. On the indie side I have heard outright crap. Awhile back there was an artist showcased on this site named Maty Soul that proves that point. There is no way a label would have out that artist out. All is not lost I think the obscure artists will rise to the top if they are good enough. If I wanted to sift through all of the crap myself I wouldn't come to this site.

  11. This argument has only gained legs for Black Artists. There seems to be this need for Soul artists to feel that they dont have to tour and gain fans and followers. But there seems to be more complaints from influencers about the material they recieve. This is all new territory, being that popular music and mass distribution of it has such a short history. And each persons aesthetic is getting more and more disparate and diluted. Maybe the bloggers need to focus more ,and perhaps the artists need to be more patient,

  12. MYTH ... some of this indie soul is hot garbage ... people just pump them up because they think it is the edgy thing to do.

  13. I think the music is out there today, agreed, unlike the 90s/early 00s we were blessed with quality. Nowadays it brings me back to a time where you had to search for an old rare groove or classic to sample or rinse in a club.
    When these soul/neo artists today become mainstream and succeed, they become a brand in their own right. People expect the same feeling that the artist brought them in the first place, and when they take it else where it can hinder them, remember Common's Electric Circus?
    Some Indie is good and bad just like with all music, I remember the days I'd buy some albums just for that 1 track! But when artists like Glenn Lewis dropped The world outside my window, or Erros latest I was shocked at hearing an album I can play to the end. We are in the hits era in mainstream nothing more, and I'd still support my Maxwell's or Jill Scotts as they are carrying the flag for the Indies to shine through.
    When Badu dropped her latest album I was so pleased she had more to offer than Window Seat (which I love). She put down a great album of musical expression. Remember it's art at the end of the day it's meant to push your buttons for better or worse.
    I myself am happy the underground indie movement of soul/neo and hiphop is strong. Think it is better this way as those who are true to it don't need to see it as popular music for the mass.

  14. I agree with Hmmm.

  15. I do believe indie artists make better music than major label acts in most cases. I wouldn't put artists like Maxwell and Jill Scott in that category because they are major label acts who established themselves at a time when being original was honored so they continue to put quality before quantity regardless plus their track records allows them the opportunuity to do so.
    Those two are major label acts who came into the game as "artists" not caring about anything but expresing their art so several who fall in the Maxwell/Jill class are excluded although they are major label acts simply because they remain creative and ground breaking. In my opinion, the indie soul/r&b and Hip Hop scene puts more emphasis on creativity and pushing the bounds of music as a whole verses just moving a unit.
    At the end of the day we (indie artist, managers and labels) should want and try to make a living off of their craft which means making our talents viable but the internet has allowed access to any and everyone. Its no fault to the technology because without it, several indie artists and new major acts wouldn't be enjoying the success they have today. The problem is us! We've allowed advance technology to make us lazy so we've all aquired a certain amount of ADD (in some cases its as it relates to msuic.
    The choice is ours, if we start supporting quality independent and major label artists longer than 2 weeks to a month, the powers that finance will recognize and opt to release or financially back the real and we can stop complaining.

  16. There is a good deal of indie music, that gets love simply because it isnt mainstream.... I find the acts somewhat in between the undeground and mainstream to be the ones I enjoy most. They've had some big label testing, maybe been dropped or bounced around a lot,and never seen great mainstream success. i.e. Rahsaan Patterson

  17. Jill Scott could be considered on INDIE artist because technically Hidden Beach is an indie label. They are distributed by a major but they are indie

  18. Honestly, its true.
    remember Comeback Season and Room for Improvement DRAKE ?