A weirdly vitriolic and kind of hard-to-read article appeared today on MTVNews.com with the basic point that “indie bands are unsuccessful.” I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising — it’s kind of like George W. Bush saying global warming doesn’t exist. What are you expecting him to say? But it’s still disappointing. The writer, James Montgomery, describes some sort of mythical time — apparently, 2005 — when bands like Arcade Fire, Bloc Party, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were “flavors of the month.” Sadly, none of them could keep it up, because, uh, something happened, “and suddenly,” it reads, “none of them seemed to matter much any more.” Wow!
This is my least favorite kind of pseudo-journalism: “I’m going to make a name for myself as a writer by being against everything the cool kids are for.” It’s controversial and attention-grabbing! But unfortunately, the only actual statistic that Montgomery cites completely contradicts his thesis: Arcade Fire’s new album Neon Bible (as I blabbed about endlessly) debuted on the Billboard charts at #2. Seems pretty good to me. The rest of his “facts” are as follows:
–Clap Your Hands’ new album has sold 1/3 what their first one did (even though it’s only been out three months);
–Bloc Party’s latest has “all but disappeared from the cultural zeitgeist” (he even had to “wiki” the title);
–a “hunch” that Arctic Monkeys’ new CD, released this week, won’t have the same “impact” as the first one.
Right. His entire theory is baseless: independent music’s impact and popularity actually continues to expand, with recent, surprising Top 5 debuts from Bright Eyes, The Shins, and Modest Mouse. Even Bloc Party’s A Weekend in the City debuted at #12, and has sold 50,000 copies already. Not bad for a delicate, wistful album about coming to terms with your sexuality. In fact, one could make the point that with the ascendancy of iTunes, independent music has more of a potential audience than ever.
What’s the point of this article? To point out that not every single self-released, import, or independent album outsells the Pussycat Dolls? Or to find some sort of justification for MTV ignoring independent artists, by pretending they have no impact, or that they’re “over”? Well, a bit of Google sleuthing turns up an interview with Mr. Montgomery on AbsolutePunk.com, where he describes his job as covering “emo/Warped Tour/MySpace/whatever you call it punk.” Oh, okay. Well, perhaps covering Panic! At the Disco might be more up his alley.