My take on the term “indie”

I always like to try to open the eyes of the public to a new way of looking at things. I am a huge fan of the underdog (hence why I’ve been using Linux for over a decade) and always fight the good fight for the mom and pop shops and the small artists. Now, I am considered one of those artists who fight against the “man” to try to get their work into the eye of the public. So to the masses, I am an “indie” artist.

What exactly does “indie” mean? Well, originally it meant “independent” and was applied to the many bands that were spawned from various regions and colleges in the eighties and nineties. Such bands as:

  • REM
  • 10 Thousand Mainiacs
  • The Cure
  • The Smiths
  • Sonic Youth
  • Liz Phair
  • Belly
  • Lemonheads
  • Death Cab For Cutie
  • HUM
  • Oasis
  • Radiohead

The list goes on and on. And what about indie films:

  • Cube
  • Run Lola Run
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • The Descent
  • Being John Malcovitch
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • Evil Dead
  • Nosferatu
  • Clerks
  • Donnie Darko

Some pretty impressive artists for once being considered “indie” right? And nearly every one of those artists or works of art have been fully accepted by the consuming public as valid, purchase-worthy works.

But let’s think about it this way…at one point every artist is considered “indie”. How is that? Well, every writer, at first, begins their career by searching for the means with which to get their work published. No writer is born into publication. My idol, Clive Barker struggled for a long while to get work published. All the while he was proudly working as an indie artist. You name a writer and I can promise you, at one point, they could have been labeled as “indie”.

And what about this: Is the indie author who finally rises to success (such as JA Konrath) still considered “indie”? Just because the man doesn’t go the traditional route — he still has a publisher (Amazon and Barnes & Noble) and is making his living as a writer. Is he still an indie artist?

This leads me to a question:

Is the label “indie” indicative of representation, sales, experience in a field, or something all together different? For younger members of society (“indie kids” as they are often called) it’s teenagers who all share a common love for the arts and music.

It’s pretty clear that traditional publishers look at “indie” authors as being pejorative. Why? Well, the answer to that question is quite obvious — indie authors are cutting into what they value the most…”bottom line”. To be honest, I get that. I understand why traditional publishers want to squash the likes of us. Fortunately, for both readers and writers, that won’t happen.

As for the consuming public — they don’t care who created the work, so long as it’s good. Did the public care if Robert Smith and The Cure were an indie band or a backed by the traditional music industry model? No. Music lovers only cared that their music was good. If a work is of quality, the general public won’t give a dirty patooty if it’s indie, traditional, or written on a scroll of toilet paper. If a book is gripping, beautiful, wondrous, and well written — it will be embraced and adored. If not — just like a bad book published in the tradition method — it will disappear into obscurity.

But the label “indie” does not have to be seen in any way as a transient term to be slapped onto an artist on the road from obscurity to popularity. Eventually, like many before us, we will be seen (by some) as sell outs.

I would be you’d be hard-pressed to find an indie author not willing to be considered a “sell out”.