Topic D, Part 3: The Guest.

[NOTE: This was originally submitted by an anonymous reader as a comment, but I felt that the writing was quite strong; in fact, I felt it deserved its own post. Enjoy!]

Pardon my intrusion -- stumbled across your blog and felt interested enough to comment. Hope that's kosher?

It's funny to consider people being up in arms about the commercialization of "independent" music at a time when "indie" doesn't refer to freedom from dependence on music corporations so much as it does a sound descendent from bands who, ages before, were disconnected from said corporations. I'm sure you'd all agree that "indie" has no meaning beyond a marketing label at a point when many of the genre's major bands are supported by major companies (Death Cab: Universal, Shins: Sony, etc.). In many ways, that's neither here nor there: these bands are commercial however you slice them, and they're very careful to market themselves as such. DCFC toured with something akin to $15k's worth of lighting equipment alone last fall, two busses, and a touring crew of between ten and fifteen. It's not Led Zeppelin, but it's not really "indie" either. There's no surprise that these bands are turning up in commercials.

What's puzzling, though, is the sense of faint betrayal one hears about these things from some quarters. Not from you folk, who seem to be more thoughtful than histrionic, but from a lot of other channels you'd expect would be more reasonable about it. There's a good deal of sense to Bill Hicks's old routine about "if you do a commercial, you're off the artistic roll call forever," but even if you adhere to that, isn't it odd to claim ownership over a commercial property that has no connection to a community of its own? Much "indie" music plays upon this idea of grassroots connection without having much connection to any community or "neighbourhood" (as the Arcade Fire would have it) at all, and that ersatz intimacy is part of the selling point. It doesn't require listeners participate in helping book shows, arrange tours, put bands up or cook for them, etc., which is what "the music community" often implies in more DIY circles. In those circles a sense of betrayal over commercial "selling out" makes a bit more sense (though how much?). How many of those people who feel stung by hearing their favourite indie band in a commercial are willing to counter the sting by trying to bolster stronger independent arts communities and encourage non-commercial enjoyment of music and art?

"Indie" music is becoming almost universally a commodity alone, so it's no surprising that it's being used to sell other stuff, especially when it seems to do that well.

Great blog, keep it up.

[I'd like to thank Anonymous for joining the discussion. (It was no intrusion at all!) As a group, we're happy to attract readers (and at this point, stumbling across Strictly Culture, perhaps using Blogger's "Next Blog" tool, is really the only way we can expect readers to find us). This post was insightful, not to mention above and beyond a simple comment (and flattering, too!). Thanks again, and we hope to hear from you in the future.]

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi-- anonymous poster here. I'm thrilled you thought my screed worth promotion to the front page, and I didn't intend to be enigmatic about it (though being called "the Guest" brings to mind that Edward Gorey comic with the sloth-creature in a scarf and espadrilles, which is a look I could only aspire to). My name's Jesse, and I live in Montreal. I first ended up here a few weeks ago from a link on your regular blog, which had been linked to elsewhere in the cyber-aether.
We don't know each other, but for one reason or another I've been hearing mention of your name from various sources for probably close to a decade now, since the groups of people I know and those you know seem to overlap only in the slightest at the fringes (the best place to overlap anything, for sure). So I am, basically, anonymous, in that you don't know me, nor do your co-conspirators. But you all do maintain a very interesting and readable blog here, so I do intend to continue returning to it. Keep it up.

Miss Imperial said...

Well, hello, Jesse! It's nice to (sort of) meet you. You've referenced Edward Gorey, so my respect level for you is even higher now, though I must admit that I myself was not referencing Gorey by calling you The Guest (but let's just pretend I was, because I quite enjoy The Doubtful Guest).

No matter how you found us, I'm glad you took the time to respond to our posts, though I am now curious about our mutual friends, especially if they go back about a decade! (My guess is that either Lisa J Smith or Leila Pourtavaf figure into all of this somehow, and if they do, you might have heard the name Andrew Forbes (aka "/A" or "/a", one of the other contributors to this blog), as we've all known each other for about fifteen years now. OH MY GOD. WE ARE SO OLD!)

Anyway, thanks for returning. Until we "meet" again, enjoy lovely Montreal, and have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

Ah! I do know Leila, though not well (perhaps you know her once-roommate, Jeff M.? A good friend) and I met Andrew on several occasions years ago. Hello, Andrew. Nice to run across people from ages past again by accident. Like I say, there isn't tremendous overlap between mutual friends. I was close with one Sara C from Ottawa for a long time, whom I think knew you, and years back I knew one Christie C, who was (hopefully still is?-- always awkward phrasing that) involved with Andrew, so I'm sure that's part of the connection. More recently it might have been through music (my partner does a women-in-music radio show in town called Venus-- did they interview you one time, maybe?), or possibly through Bartek K, sausage fancier and shirtless polish DJ (of the Sons of Warsaw)? Perhaps even through Hazel M, who until last year was another one of those (like yourself) whom I'd heard about from everyone but had never met?

It comes down to having grown up in Ottawa, I think, and also to the fact that Anglo Montreal is Ottawa's most distant and most interesting suburb, the lint-screen to Ottawa's dryer of respectability. Fluffy, but colourful, and the rent is cheap. Though our kitchen burned down last month, second fire in a year, which suggests that our $600 6 1/2 wasn't as good a deal as we thought.

Fifteen years, indeed-- friends of mine have been each ringing down 30 for the past couple of years and I will soon as well. Shocking to be able to say you've known your friends half your life, and yet's how much has really changed (other than greater paranoia about dentistry and an increase in the frequency and intensity with which one listens to the Mekons)? I mean, ultimately, marriages and kids and sex-changes aside?

Christ, I'm incapable of brevity. Spent six hours editing some graduate urban planning student's monumental paper on the history of the main commercial thoroughfare in Shanghai and all I want is distraction. O, narcotizing internet. Must accomplish/eat something now, however. So a good weekend to you, as well.

Miss Imperial said...

aha! Your last name begins with an "S"! (I don't want to print it here just in case you'd like to remain Anonymous.) I think we've met, in fact.

(And yes, Christie C is still involved with Andrew -- they're married! They have a daughter! Sara C is also married, with two-year-old twins; she and her husband are very close to me and my husband. I didn't really know Hazel, but I met her sister Tamar a couple of times, through Rob Abramovitch and Paul Simmons and Corey/Corwin Fox.)

Anonymous said...

Holy smokes! Children!

The last time I was in contact with Sara and Paul, Sara told me they were "trying," and I wished them luck, but fell out of contact. Twins! And C&A too. Amazing. Wow.

Most of those friends of mine who've had kids were the least responsible people I knew, and it's been interesting watching them receive whatever genetically coded signal comes in breeding that makes one clean up one's act. They've all done it, they're all serious about it, and they're collectively kind of inspiring. I'm sure the same must be said of S&P and C&A.

I'm very sorry if I don't recall our having met-- you're right about my name. (I was scolded a while back for rendering a friend googlable by using his full name in a blog entry, so I've tried to break the habit. I'm unfortunately archived in google dating back to a humiliatingly young age, though I managed to retain the ability to embarrass myself online and off well into my mid-20s). It seems likely we might have crossed paths, and I apologize for not recalling it.

Ah-- girlfriend home and cat irritable, both demanding attention. Must go. Stay well!