Exploring Indie

By James Pew

Here is another excerpt from my book Studio Manifesto: Exploring the Possibilities of Indie. As always please leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading.

“Even specialist learning in higher education proceeds by ignoring interrelationships; for such complex awareness slows down the achieving of expertness.” – Marshall Mcluhan

Great musicians do not ignore the interrelationship among the elements of a piece of music. A great musician arranges his part to compliment the parts of the other musicians in the band, she understands that the strength of her “parts,” and her role in the band, is dependent on a cohesive interrelationship of the other players.

It may be helpful to stop thinking of yourself only as a guitarist or drummer, or any other variety of specialist. You are an artist and a musician. Most forms of modern music deeply involve multiple disciplines; electronics, acoustics, sound engineering, instrument tech-ing, production, etc. Not to mention the different specialist functions of music itself; performance, composition, arrangement, etc.

Interdisciplinary approaches typically focus on problems thought to be too complex or vast for adequate understanding with a single disciple.” – Wikepedia

I know from my experience working with young indie recording artists, that they often view the music industry as something too complex or vast to fully, or even adequately understand. And I’m sure they would agree that a single point of view makes big picture understanding even harder to attain. The tendency to approach things from a single discipline comes from the previous Guttenberg Age of man. And age of linearity, sequence and point of view. However, the modern age is interdisciplinary.

Not all people have adapted fully to this (we are still in the early years of a fairly young electric age). Many people alive today are quite happy living in the previous age. The artist though, must live in his present age. The artist, by McLuhian definition, must deal with the present. He is compelled to do so. The art he makes is an extension of this inner compulsion. The artist exemplifies the character of the modern age – an interdisciplinary approach is guaranteed in a modern artistic approach.

“The artist picks up the message of cultural and technological challenge decades before its transforming impact occurs. He then builds models or Noah’s arks for facing the change that is at hand.” – Marshall McLuhan

DIY or Do-It-Yourself does not by any means me Do-It-All-Yourself, however an interdisciplinary approach to all things related to your music, including non-music functions like promotions, booking, management, network marketing/social media is a must. Even though you may work with others who will facilitate certain specialist functions, like promotion, it is important that you view the specialist in this case as an extension of your will and capacity.

In this sense you take responsibility for the specialist. If the specialist fails, you step into his role and fulfill his function, until you find a new “specialist” to free you up for other functions.

The Medium is the Message

Any new medium, or technology, creates new environments, new situations for human association and human perception, which works upon the whole man, as well as the whole society.

In approx. 2004 new disruptive media, social media/web 2.0 (a concept based around information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration – all tribal dynamics), seemed to “take hold,” and capture the imagination of many. Today it continues to shape 21st century art, economics, and technology, in what many people describe as a Brave New World. We are on the upswing of a cultural explosion! Artists are playing a leading role as innovators in this new hybrid economy and creative culture. The M.M. quote below is important because it expands the definition of who we typically think of as artist.

“The artist is the man in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of knew knowledge in his own time.” – Marshall McLuhan

Artists taking things into their own hands and exercising greater control toward positive outcomes is the essence of IDIY (interdisciplinary do-it-yourself) of the present age. The corporate music industry would do well if it re-modeled its business around facilitating the new artist to fan relationships emerging today, instead of pushing an old business model on new social/economic mediums. As McLuhan shows us, the content of a new medium is always the old medium.

Its not surprising that the major labels are attempting to use new media to facilitate their old ways (the old content). However a new unexpected form has emerged, completely separate from the major label system, created by the artist and fan over social mediums, in an entirely new association of artist/fan. We have barely begun to see the cultural effect of this.

At the time of this writing the out look has never been more dire for the corporate music industry. However, the independent music industry has never looked better. Studio Manifesto aims to shed light on the engine of today’s indie recording artist. How he thrives artistically and economically in a world connected through digital social mediums is a key point of analysis in the coming pages.

“The artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because he is the only person aware of the nature of the present” – Marshall McLuhan

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