By Ethan Harmon
Take a moment to think of your favorite radio station. Think of the music that blasts through the car radio and how it sounds. Think of how many times you hear the same artist or the same song. Think of how many advertisements and endorsements interrupt the flow of songs. By now, the idea alone should be exhausting. Mainstream radio stations continuously play the same artists, who all seem to have the same sound, or similar musical prowess, or lack thereof. The worse part comes in the form of record companies, which push the “it and now” artists of today, paying stations to play their tracks and pushing the albums onto the front pages of music sites.
And it is because of this constant stream of sameness – or crap – that is causing a massive exodus to a place that is reserved for musicians who create music for the very sake of creating their music: the “underground,” or in other words, independent artists. The term independent has been taken out of context and is usually associated with a negative context, often referred to as a “hipster” movement or “not good enough” due to the fact that these artists are not attached to labels. But, for the vast majority, the opposite is true. The independent music movement is not supposed to represent retaliation against labels nor is it supposed to be a label itself. The movement is just the idea of artists creating their music without the restrictions of radio or records, allowing them greater freedom to experiment and generate a sound that is unique, original, and potentially, new.
The best, or most current example, of this idea can be represented in Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, an MC and DJ who have not only experienced a great amount of attention due to their very masterful rap songs, but have done so through their hard work and dedication to the craft. Their album, The Heist, was released without a record label backing it, and it has climbed into the musical world with mass appeal. However, this attention does not qualify as “mainstream” success, because of the genesis of the project itself. The duo, along with the rest of their entourage, crafted the tracks by their own means, and produced with their own creative process intact. Looking outside of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, rappers such as Dizzy Wright and Hopsin have produced and created their own albums independently, showing that beats, rhymes, and life are not dictated by a greedy producer.
Rap is not the only genre that is experiencing an independent surge, however. Canadian progressive-metal band Protest the Hero broke away from their studio and began a Kickstarter of sorts, asking for fans to support their music and trust in their creative process. After receiving donations to fund the album, the band began recording their latest record, free of the constraints of their previous studio.
The idea of independent music is inspiring more and more artists to shatter the confines of labels and migrate toward their one true goal; the one goal that actually matters in the music world. Artists are creating music with absolute creative freedom, and instilling an idea amongst music-lovers everywhere. Do what makes you happy and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Creation should not be limited. And this simple, wonderful idea is the downfall of mainstream music.