Independent? Never heard of it

Recently, a good friend of mine recommended a certain band to me, which he referred to as “Indie.” To most college students this is a commonplace occurrence, but it can create quite an uncomfortable situation for anyone who isn’t quite sure what this “Indie” thing is. Thankfully, some simple knowledge on genres can diffuse the most awkward of “Indie” music recommendations.

There is often a lot of talk of the empirical feel associated with genres, but these are not what genres are about. A genre is a classification whose purpose is fitting together like music under a single label. That way when people refer to a genre of music, there is no question as to what technical music type they are talking about.

However, genres have become muddled, for too often these days we overfill our music genre’s with artists that are far from qualified. The Independent genre, or “Indie” for short, is used far too liberally. By the very name, the genre applies only to bands that produce and market their own music. Yet, we see bands included in this genre that neither produce nor market their own music.

Sleazy masquerading under a different genre like this is commonplace, as “Independent” musicians often try to piggyback off the “hipster” craze. Thankfully, by very definition these corporate sellouts don’t belong in the genre. Vampire Weekend? The Shins? Even Feist? They simply don’t meet the established criteria of what the word “Independent” means.

Don’t get me wrong, they are fantastic bands, but unfortunately they have major record labels. If we were to make exceptions to them, where would it end? Including them would mean changing, god forbid, the meaning of “Independent.” When in doubt, there is a simple rule: if you’ve heard of it, it’s probably not “Indie.”

Just as well, this applies to many other misguided genres. Rock itself is deeply in need of realignment. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Aerosmith; truly, these artists are out of place. What has happened to a genre of impressive, moving music about geology? This genre should be filled with classic rocky hits, like “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough” and the vastly underrated “Rock Cycle Rap” by Mr. Lee. To the relief of many, at least The Rolling Stones and Nickelback are in the right place.

This illuminates meaningful redefinition across the board, bringing clarity to previously meaningless genres. Afro-Pop: who doesn’t love Pop music done by musicians of all descents, but with afros? Bop: now it would finally provide a haven for the groundbreaking music mixes that utilize the children’s toy Bop It ®. Hip-Hop: Does it hip? Does it hop? The world’s adorable bunny rabbits finally have their own genre. It’s fair to say this change would further clarify other confusing genres like Bluegrass, British Invasion, Shoegaze and Old School Rap.

It may be an adjustment at first, but this method makes classification much easier. Rather than debate whether a pirate shanty overlaps between Folk, Indie or experimental, you could simply call it a “Sea Song.” Indeed, if you want to fancy yourself an accurate and efficient listener, this is the way to refer to the musical categories of your favorite bands. There is no “feel” or “culture” associated with music, just simple, literal genres.

Knowing this, you will know how to respond next time one of your friends remarks “Have you heard the latest Indie song on the radio?” In a pinch, you can reply with certainty and overwhelming righteousness, “Radio? That’s not where Indie music is played, dumbass.”

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