Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

News, notes and ideas on music marketing, self-promotion, artist empowerment and more

May 19, 2008

The New Indie Music Gatekeepers?

Going the independent, do-it-yourself music route is in full swing, and it has been for years (even though there are plenty of latecomers still stuck in the old ways). But as with all new trends that shake up the system, new systems often emerge to accommodate the new thing. Which some people fear turns the new path into something that looks a lot like the old system.

Confused? Well, here's what Nathan Lilly, singer-guitarist of the Milwaukee, Wis.-based band Call Me Lightning told

"There's definitely a real change in indie music going on and it can be discouraging. There's a system you have to fight against now that resembles the mainstream music industry more than punk rock at this point. It's a little bit more highly organized now — people have streamlined indie-rock and punk touring."

That is, it's harder to go out and do the classic D.I.Y. thing.

"We've always booked ourselves and that can be difficult these days for sure," lamented Lilly. "I'm perfectly capable of booking a show at a small venue where I know the people, but at this point you need people with some credibility larger than your own to get any shows.

"There's always good with the bad," he admitted. "The independent music press, 'zines -- it's really just highly developed and really well organized, which is good. I guess. But there's kind of this much more stable hierarchy in place as far as independent music goes."

What do you think?

Have you encountered new "systems" as you pursue your music career independently? Are you being shut out of supposedly "indie friendly" venues, web sites, blogs, podcasts, etc., because of a new indie pecking order?

OR ... are these just excuses from people who want quick fixes and aren't willing to do the work and put in the time to be creative and slowly build credibility and buzz?

Feel free to click the comments link below and post your thoughts.


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posted by Bob Baker @ 12:03 PM   3 comments


At May 19, 2008 6:45:00 PM, Anonymous Clif said...

Man, the word "gatekeepers" kinda ticks me off. LOL

What Nathan says makes sense though. Things tend to organize themselves over time, and with more and more venues disappearing, not only is competition for slots tougher, but venue owners are taking less risks in order to keep their own doors open.

Folk singers booking house concerts, playing without amplification, selling handmade CDs, eating potluck and sleeping on couches... that's where DIY went. :)

Take care,

At May 20, 2008 3:10:00 AM, Anonymous Matt @ Kurb said...

I think you gotta be in the headset, to whatever extent you regard it, that the internet is an environment no longer really beholden to gatekeepers.

With strong regular content, strong propositions, methodical application, professional execution and presentation, and a user value focus, I believe you can now slowly create the kind of "bottom up" momentum you need to align with other parts of the industry.

At May 20, 2008 4:33:00 PM, Anonymous Pete Mason said...

I enjoy the challenge of meeting gatekeepers, even though it can be challenging at times, because when they open the "gates" for us, all kinds of great opportunities arise.

For example, we were in Harrison Hot Springs, BC about two weeks ago, to continue recording our second album in our mobile studio in our new motorhome, when we found out that the resort hotel there was hosting this huge media convention of the general managers and executives of the major broadcasters in Canada, including TV, radio, etc. and advertising executives.

Not one to ignore a "golden" opportunity, I proceeded to wander into the crowd and meet people individually, and even recognized a couple of radio DJs who interviewed us for Rock 101 a few months ago, one of whom encouraged me to "mingle" with as many people as possible, which I did. I ended up having some beer with the general managers of various major media reps like CTV, Rogers, Chorus (who own all the major radio stations in Vancouver) and more.

One general manager sat beside me while I showed him our brand new music video for our single, "Weapons of Love," and he said he "loved it!" I got a few names and phone numbers and will definitely be following up on these new contacts. I like the saying, "when life hands me lemons I make lemonade." I agree that there are some trends happening in Indie Music that smack of "the old system," but I don't even pay attention to things like that because I see it as a big waste of my time and energy to bother crying the blues about "the way things are going", when I know I have the power within me to effect change for our band by being proactive.

I am a realist who also tries to see the positive in all things, even things that, ordinarily speaking, bug the heck out of me. I believe there is always an alternative to any negative situation and even a way to make it work for our music. Sometimes, of course, we just have to move on to a different group of people or a new city, etc...


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