INDIE Has Arrived: 273 GRAMMY Nominations for Indies! Congratulations…Paul McCartney?

So there was a lot of buzz on the interwebs recently about the Grammy Nominations, notably that 273 "indies" were nominated for awards this year. For a guy who spent 2 years documenting the word INDIE in an effort to find out its true definition, you'd think I'd be thrilled. Indie artists have finally arrived and have been overwhelmingly recognized by the Grammys! Well, not so much. The American Association of Independent Music released their list of members who were nominated for a Grammy, and the list includes, among others:
  • Paul McCartney
  • Robert Plant
  • LeAnn Rimes
And in A2IM's announcement of these Grammy nominations, Taylor Swift is also referenced as an indie artist. Now, these artists are on this list because of associations with smaller "indie" labels. However, as Paul Resnikoff, Publisher of Digital Music News, correctly points out in a great article on this subject, Major Labels are no doubt doing more of the heavy lifting in terms of promotion and distribution for these artists, so can they truly be considered "indie"?

Short answer? No. As much as I would love to say that Paul McCartney is an indie artist and I'll interview him for my next film, it just doesn't add up. And Taylor Swift is certainly no Ani DiFranco. But that brings up the same question as in "What is INDIE?": where do you draw the line? At one extreme you have an artist who is unsigned, has no label, no distribution, and does not engage in fan-funding or seek money from investors, they do EVERYTHING on their own. At the other extreme, you have Taylor Swift, and not to mention all of the many shades of gray in between that we documented in the film.

So what's the answer? I recently gave this a lot of thought for an interview on Hypebot.com, and the answer I gave was the following: "If I were to define it myself, an indie artist is an unsigned artist, plain and simple. There are so many nuances, but if I had to define it quickly, that’s what I would say, although everyone has their own interpretation which is totally valid, as I documented in the film."

And that's key, indie means different things to different people. If Paul McCartney or Robert Plant win a Grammy this year and in their acceptance speech they talk about how they are proud to be indie artists, then who am I to argue with them? Maybe being "indie" is more of a philosophy/attitude/state of mind rather than a strictly defined term that means only 1 thing.

Or, as Paul from Digital Music News suggests, maybe it's time to leave that term out of the discussion altogether: "Meanwhile, the majors lose more power every day, and things are going to look a lot different in five years. So perhaps as the major label power-base withers, so should the antiquated 'indie' term. Because under the current, vague definitions, almost every artist will be 'indie' eventually - not just Taylor Swift." I won't argue with that.

Cheers,

Dave "Indie" Cool

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