Most everyone has a part of them that loves existing outside the lines or has at least a half-smirked respect for breaking the rules. When it comes to music and art even the most straight-laced, “Leave it to Beaver” DNA gets alternately twisted by a predilection for a Ginsberg or Kerouac world. The moniker “indie”, prefacing a band, a writer, a painter, an actor or any other type of creative endevour, is something that most artists and fans at least love in idea, if not in reality.
As an artist, to say that you are “indie” is to say that you are self-sufficient, self-motivated and immune to commercialism’s penchant for watering down, homogenizing and sometimes flat-out ruining. As a fan, to say that you are “indie” suggests that you have what it takes to see and hear that which is special. You are a superman of the unheralded. You are capable of reaching past the superficial fad, beyond the manipulation of “the man,” and in touch with a pulse undetectable by others. You are at home in a current carrying only a select few. It certainly is enjoyable (we’ll leave out self-righteous for now) and I think, admirable to count yourself as “indie.” Being “indie” however, carries with it a hearty expectation of work and respect. You know the kind I’m talking about. It’s the “money where your mouth is” kind. Being “indie” also beckons an intolerant backlash against hypocrisy. You can’t espouse to be making truly independent art or being a fan of the same and not live it! You might as well go back to being one of the “asses of the masses” – always loved that description, unless it was aimed at me.
So as “indie” artists and fans, how do we practice what we preach? As an artist you have to be willing to make art for yourself first. The kind of art that you can be passionate about sharing and finding an audience with, rather than the kind of art that is means tested and safely buffered by what is easily marketable. Not that you don’t want to give your fans what they want, but if you’re making art through passion and conviction and you work to find your fan base, you will by that process alone be “giving the fans what they want.”
As an “indie” fan, the responsibility is no less important than that of the “indie” artist, and is at times a far higher calling. You must buy the ticket, buy the product and allow yourself some measure of fanaticism for the artists and art you are moved by. Next, buy another ticket and another copy of that same product and give it to someone temporarily at a lower altitude of being “in the know.” It’s not enough to just love something when you love something “indie” – you have to champion it. Why, because others don’t or won’t. Unfair as it is, you are the principal investor, PR person, social media director and the one enabling the artist to continue. As long as you are an “indie” fan – that job description will never end. As much as I espouse the philosophy of making art for oneself, it is of no consequence unless it can be heard, seen or used in some way by others. You as a fan are the “others.”
I will close this blog post (before it drifts any closer to a rant) with a case in point. Mine! I am an “indie” artist but because of that, I am also an “indie” fan. The responsibility for me to act as a passionate fan of art is exponential, due to my expectation that others act with similar care for my art. Last week I was travelling though the world of my Facebook feed and ran across a posted video of a New Zealand – based musician named Thomas Oliver. He is a Weissenborn player. The Weissenborn is a hollow neck, Hawaiian style, lap steel guitar. In this video, he played a solo rendition of the John Williams score to Jurassic Park. It was innovative, captivating and expertly played. Though Thomas Oliver is widely celebrated as a player, he certainly doesn’t strike me as mainstream or manipulated. He is to me, a fine example of what it means to be “indie.” Though I am at times guilty of my own version of indie-hypocrisy – I was not this day! Within 5 minutes, I had signed up to his mailing list, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook page. More importantly, I purchased his entire CD for $7.99 on iTunes and shared his story and links with all I could interest.
Runaway Home is lucky. So far, the great majority of our “indie” fans live up to that label and more. We sure love you guys, and the best way for us to show our love (like life in general) is to pay it forward. The three of us in Runaway Home are “indie” fans as much as we are “indie” artists. We will always try as fans to live up to the “indie” work ethic. If we are lucky and deserving, the music that we make will continue to be carried in the current by our own, equally passionate, “indie” fans.
Mark Elliott – Runaway Home
“It’s The Music That Makes Us Smile”