Originally posted on This Music Blog Sux, Apr 4 2021
If because I said so isn’t a good enough reason for you, which is an admittedly reasonable stance, then I guess I must convince you, that’s right you [insert name here]. Before we get there, we’re going to have to define what indie music is exactly, or at the very least try. To be highly reductionist, indie music is any music made outside of commercial record companies. It might be published by some dudes in their basement, a chick in their bedroom or an independent label like Ember or Dead Oceans. In a more general sense, it’s a musical genre that includes music from bands like The Sonic Youth, The White Stripes, and Dinosaur Jr. to indie or alt pop artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Belle and Sebastian, and under some genre assignments, Billie Eillish. “Indie” music is about as useful of a term as organic or free trade, so I will focus on the more strict definition. Here’s a spoiler list of the reasons why you should listen to indie music:1. Diversity Drives Creativity in Music2. Listening to new Music is Good For You, Probably3. Bragging Rights, and Your New Favorite Band
4. Supporting Local
Diversity Drives Creativity in Music
This one you feel in your gut. Similar people, using similar production methods, using the same formula, make music that sounds the same. Take every single Mumford and Sons song for example, or how a group of sad brits in Coldplay keep trying to make the same Radiohead song. Different backgrounds can provide completely different ideologies to the church of music. Two people from differing backgrounds may have completely disparate approaches to making music, they may even have differing ideas as to what music is. New musical genres are formed under the influence of the existing musical landscape. When Rock n’ Roll classics like Chuck Berry are interpreted through different lenses, we get the likes of Cannibal Corpse and The Cure. Previous studies investigated the correlation between diversity and music, finding that periods alternated between homogenized and seemingly stagnant music production styles with phases of more intense competition and creativity, often heralded by new production or distribution methods.3 To put it plainly, people start to shake things up and we get new genres. This is good news for anyone not still listening to Gregorian chants.
These periods of musical innovation don’t just benefit the musical landscape, they have massive impacts on the culture at large. New genres blast through the walls and years later become cultural cornerstones. One of my favorite genres, indie rock, had and continues to have a massive impact on culture. With guitar innovation at the forefront and drawing heavily from punk rock and counterculture, indie rock helped drag Rock n’ Roll music back into the limelight with MTV, dive bar performances, and record store culture4. Indie brought in the age of the new rock gods with the likes of Kurt Cobain, Kim Gordon, and Black Francis, and stays through every distorted note in a sick Screaming Females solo. We simply would not be living in the same world without musical movements and their ability to shift culture.
Listening to New Music is Good For You, Probably
A no longer so recent study used MRI technology to study the reward center of the brain as volunteers listened to new music. They found that the reward center of the brain responded to the anticipation of music similar to the way it would respond to food or sex.1 Imagine waiting for a new song to come into the bedroom in “something more comfortable,” all in foreplay for an awaiting eargasm. Since I haven’t found any other studies supporting this theory or replicating their results, I’m somewhat skeptical of their findings. Long story short, the study’s usefulness is kind of meh, but when you listen to a new song that hits you just right, the concept makes sense, and music in general can do a lot of good for you, with previous studies demonstrating positive health effects on your health like lowered blood pressure and improved sleep.2 It seems Drugs, Sex, and Rock & Roll might be tighter cohorts than we thought.
Bragging Rights and Your New Favorite Band
Admit it. You want to be the prick that was listening to Gotye before “Somebody That I Used To Know” came on the radio, and gets to smugly talk about how you’ve been listening to that song for the past month. It feels good to be a pioneer amongst your peers. It feels good to show somebody music they’ve never heard before and see a smile bloom across their face. It feels good to go on a weird related artist hole and find your new favorite song. Finding music that feels new and fresh can turn a bad day into a four hour album hole of bliss, and you’re probably not going to find that listening to Billboard’s Top 40.
The easiest way to lend support directly to your local art community is to listen to and support independent artists. When you support independent artists, you are giving less of your money to corporate assholes and talentless hacks, and more to your community. Specifically whoever in your community you enjoy listening to. Especially now, during our Covid-19 hellscape, you may be looking for ways to support music production and creativity. Support the kind of people that aren’t producing music just as an excuse for a new international tour. Now’s the time as well, with Rolling Stone reporting independent artists are making more music than ever.5 I plan to write further on how to support indie artists, but starting can be easy. Listen to your sister’s roommate’s brother’s band that you think is going to suck. I mean, they probably will, but maybe after that you check out your cousin’s best friend’s mixtape and it fucking slaps. You never know ‘till you try.