Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros

July 03, 2009

The True Meaning of Independence

On the eve of Independence Day in the USA, I thought I'd share this excerpt from my book, Guerrilla Music Marketing, Encore Edition:

We hear the term "indie" bounced around a lot these days. It's become quite a trendy word (although some of us have been preaching about it for more years than most). So, let me ask you …

What's your definition of indie?

Many people think of it as a reference to a musician, small record label, or film company without an affiliation with a major corporation. That's true, but I believe it has a much deeper meaning than that.

(By the way, "indie" is an abbreviation for "independent." The "ie" at the end is the proper spelling, as opposed to "indy," which is usually a reference to Indiana or Indianapolis -- as in the Indy 500. There's your grammar lesson for the day.)

I think of indie in much the same way I think of the term "guerrilla." It's more than a simple, surface-level reference to your financial backing. I believe it's a state of mind and a way of life you must bring to your entire pursuit of music.

The best way to explain my angle on this is to use an acronym. So here's my definition of I-N-D-I-E, with every letter standing for a separate concept (and I didn't even use the word "independent," which was tempting considering I had two I's to work with).

I - Inspired

To embrace the indie frame of mind, you must be inspired. You have to know in your gut that music is what you are meant to do. You must become energized when writing, recording and performing your music. Hopefully, this is something you already experience fully, without having to force yourself to feel that way.

When this kind of natural inspiration comes over you, it's a sure sign that you're on the right path. And you will need this desire to carry you through the ups and downs that you will surely encounter as you pursue music on your own terms.

N - Nontraditional

Indie musicians don't mind learning about what has come before, and they are happy to listen to the "rules" that others say are required to have a successful music career. However, the smartest indie artists keep their minds flexible and constantly question whether the supposed "rules" of the past really apply to them. They actually develop a mindset that seeks out the road less traveled. And when they spot a good idea that's off the traditional path, they fearlessly go after it without apologies.

D - Determined

Successful indie artists are fixated on their goals and determined to reach them. They leave room to veer from the original plan, when needed, but they are steadfast in their desire to produce great music, reach fans, sell more CDs, etc. With this attitude, obstacles become short-term learning experiences along the road to higher levels of success.

I - Innovative

Being indie means thinking outside of the proverbial box and looking at fresh opportunities from every angle. It means not promoting yourself the same way a thousand other acts have. It means being resistant to knee-jerk marketing tactics and open to new ideas and overlooked avenues for exposure.

E - Empowered

Indie musicians don't wait for someone or something else to come along and rescue them. They don't pray for a "lucky break" or to "be discovered." They know to the core that the power to succeed with their music resides inside of them. And they understand that it's their mission to tap into that personal power and use it to share their music with the world.

Let's recap my definition of INDIE:

I - Inspired
N - Nontraditional
D - Determined
I - Innovative
E - Empowered

Commit this acronym to memory. Better yet, make a photocopy of this post and pin it up where you'll see it every day.

Being INDIE has nothing to do with what company you are or are not affiliated with. It has everything to do with how much you take control of your own life and take steps to build the kind of music career you deserve.


P.S. Guerrilla Music Marketing, Encore Edition is the sequel to my popular Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook. It's not an updated version of the Handbook, it's a completely separate book with different content. So if you enjoyed the Handbook, you'll love the Encore Edition too.
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posted by Bob Baker @ 1:06 PM   4 comments


At Jul 4, 2009, 10:26:00 PM, Anonymous Kendra Wright said...

Great way to define what indie truly stands for! I commend you for snuffing your temptation to use "independent," tough one, but you conquered it!

At Jul 6, 2009, 1:03:00 AM, Anonymous Joseph VanBuren (D-O-E/Dostah Shilailee) said...

Well put, and I completely agree with this definition of indie. To me, indie isn't just short for independent, but it is its own concept. Independent is sufficient to represent a non-affiliation with major companies, but indie describes the passion and determination to succeed in such a situation.

At Jul 7, 2009, 3:12:00 PM, Blogger Janet Hansen said...

2009 marks my 25th year in the music industry and the first project I worked on was an independent vinyl release by Mason Williams who wrote "Classical Gas." In the mid-1980's "Of Time & Rivers Flowing" was a rather obscure but very successful concept release that enjoyed a long life through dozens upon dozens of performances; one of which was in the company of then Vice President, Al Gore.

My close associates and dear friends, Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel (Tingstad & Rumbel) are true independent recording artists in every sense of the word. They are Grammy Award winning artists who began their career together without a compass of any kind. They set the bar and created a template that made them leaders, if not pioneers in their genre. With the perfect blend of fingerstyle guitar, oboe and ocarina, they continue to create beautiful graceful instrumental melodies on acoustic instruments.

The most pressing issue we must attend to is to is realizing most independent musicians are not kids experimenting with the arrangement of sound and silence to create new styles of music. Most independents are working for a living, paying mortgages and car payments. Many are putting their kids through college. They've spent their lives dedicated to their craft.

They need our help and our support, embracing this slice of Americana as we move through a interesting time in music history.

Janet Hansen

At Jul 9, 2011, 10:13:00 AM, Blogger Walt Pitts said...

I love it!


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