By Josh Hume
Ah, iPods, Satellite radio… these new-ish forms of media dispersal are so exciting. But in and of themselves, there’s not much that’s particularly revolutionary. It’s not until we come up with interesting ways of using them in correspondence with existing practices and semiotics that they become not just novelties, but functionally useful devices.
Indie upstarts are finding ways of adapting this kind of technology to their benefit in ways that would make any corporate ad executive blush. And, in the process, they are creating communities that on some days look like they will shake the world. Vertical integration, the concept of controlling business interests by buying up associated industries, sounds predatory, and it is in certain contexts-but within the independent community, it is achieving spectacular results.
Andrew Rose, for example, is all the rage in Montreal these days because of his PopCasts: Downloadable episodes of music, commentary, and interviews. On the surface, PopCasts are much like any other radio show, but there are subtle differences. Rose’s radio shows correspond with the Pop Montreal festival, as well as with his blog and myspace account, both of which are portals into the independent music community in Montreal and beyond.
God forbid that the term synergy be used outside of a boardroom, but we may have to call this phenomenon just that. With the help of the PopCasts and other forms of media dispersal, the popularity of local acts can spread like wildfire without having to resort to more traditional promotional avenues. This is important: Indie culture is finding its way out of the stranglehold of the corporate machine as it adapts more innovatively to new technologies. Much of the new media also escapes the clutches of regulatory measures imposed by the CRTC and the FCC. Pirate radio, that dream introduced to a generation by Christian Slater’s smoky snarl in Pump up the Volume, may be dead, but it has spawned an offspring that is even stronger and more resilient.
Try playing six degrees of indie sometime. If you’re a nerd, it’s hard to lose. Film, music, magazines and blogs-they are all playing off each other. Indie websites, labels, publishing companies and other individual entities no longer stand alone. They hold each other up by acting in concert. As a result, multimedia indie empires are emerging across the country. Someday these too may be lost to the mainstream as Vice magazine has been, for example, but they should be held in high esteem for their creative application of cross-promotional tactics that got them there. What makes this revolutionary is no doubt the particular combination of media being used, often held together by the newer forms of information technology. PopCasts, and myriad similar phenomena across the country, remove the sense of distance that the audience has with the culture-makers.