Elitism in Indie Music

So this whole indie music movement is a rebellion against elitists within the circles of major record labels, right? It’s a revolt for the democratization of music, isn’t it?  It’s standing up for the little guy who couldn’t get a fair shake from the gatekeepers that allowed  a select few in the pearly gates and snubbed the rest.

Honestly, I can’t tell you why, but the same sort of elitist attitudes have developed in the indie music movement. It’s about as hypocritical an attitude as I’ve ever seen…but it isn’t limited to the gatekeepers…artists themselves are closing the door on fans and music biz insiders alike, and it ain’t a pretty picture.

In the nearly three decades I’ve actively worked in music, this is the first time artists have had the opportunity to directly connect with as many people as possible to grow a sustainable career. And within those three decades I’ve never seen such a slim profit margin within the entire music culture. Media, venues, reps, agents, publicists, managers and the artists themselves are working much harder for far less money. And yet, elitism prevails.

Social media is a doors wide open culture to make as many contacts as possible. Yet there are many who sit among their clique and cluck among themselves about how amazing their efforts are. The outer limits of the clique reach a finite number of people who already know about various projects anyway, so how does that build an interactive tribe? Is anyone among the clique going to buy new products or pay to see a performance? Likely they are among those who receive the advance promo copies and comp tickets. So how is that group influencing anyone outside the clique?

Countless times I see touring artists who really need to be in touch with an audience far and wide, but frequently they are in direct contact with less than 100 people. The math just doesn’t add up. Do they feel better when 413 people are fans, but they only directly connect with 71 people?

This is elistism folks. It isn’t helping the indie movement whatsoever. Open your gates and let people in. We aren’t involved in anti-social media. It’s an interactive, reciprocal arrangement brilliantly designed to help sustain a movement unlike any other, at any time in history.

There are over 300 million people in this country. Making your name and your music scarce is not a strategy that works in the most overly-saturated market music has ever known. Keeping the doors shut and the gates locked will ensure only your handful of true fans will ever know what you are up to.

Not everyone is participating in this elitism, and they are the lucky few who will prosper. They understand what an amazing opportunity exists and are taking advantage of the niche markets that will sustain growing entrepreneurial efforts.


About scout66

2017 marks the 33rd year of Janet Hansen’s career as a music marketing specialist. With three Grammy award-winning campaigns to her credit, Hansen has also contributed to the legacy of two of history’s most popular songs. “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams is the most-broadcast instrumental tune in history; and “Louie, Louie” by The Fabulous Wailers is the most-recorded rock song in history. In 2009 Hansen launched the unique music platform Scout66 to encourage reviews of live shows from the ticket-buying public. You may contact Janet at Scout66PR@gmail.com for information on consulting, campaigns, and tour support. Please follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scout66com
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3 Responses to Elitism in Indie Music

  1. Peter Holmes says:

    Nice post, Janet.

    I’m not sure, though, whether it’s elitism, or that many musicians feel overwhelmed and underequipped.

    It’s hard enough getting good at your craft, let alone writing and producing songs. Now add to that, learning how to become a marketer. But not just a marketer – a social media marketer, as well as a financier of your marketing efforts and promotions.

    Even for the best, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out and build a community online.

    There’s some new thinking on this problem, coined as “Digital Relativity”.

    Space on the Internet is infinite. Time and attention, meanwhile, remain finite. Therefore, “Digital Relativity” will become a major challenge.

    Steve Rubel talks about it further:

    “Taken in context, when you do the math it’s easy to see that it’s going to be harder than ever to reach people. On the one hand, social networking sites like Facebook consolidate audiences. (The average user spends five hours/month on the site.) On the other hand, social media is forcing us to make hard choices every day – Bieber vs brands, Forbes vs families, business vs. babies.

    The new law of digital relativity (e.g. the relationship between time and space) means the end of scarcity. This was the currency that, for years, powered marketing budgets, filled media coffers and drove the information economy. Now that scarcity is gone, however, we will need to adopt a new set of skills.”

    Add to that the reality on the amount of digital stuff out there and coming.

    “We’ve entered into a digital world measured by zettabytes. In a nutshell, a zettabyte is 1 followed by 21 zeroes worth of bytes of information. Or, to put it another way, a zettabyte is roughly half a million times the entire collections of all the academic libraries in the United States. Google says that in another 10 years, they’ll have to sift through 53 zettabytes of information to bring us our search results.” (http://bit.ly/9MA9g7)

    Don’t mean to sound negative. But socmed marketing is a daunting job for independent musicians, with a dwindling ROI as the prize.


    • scout66com says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Peter. I have always appreciated and respected your point of view.

      The number of artists, and to a greater degree, “administrators” I interface with daily shows
      me it is an elitist attitude. It’s so easy to see the pattern in those who really work at maintaining
      a career; and those who have relied almost strictly on small groups of “influencers” who contribute
      to the elitism. Playing king of the hill in this environment just doesn’t work.


  2. Renagade says:

    Bravo! I wear many hats these days, and one is an ecommerce marketer. I have preached to sellers often, get out of the bubble and connect with the rest of the world, for it is the rest of the world whom will be your customers.
    Same is true for musicians. Your select group will not be your main customers, it is the rest of the world that will be.
    Not to mention, you never know whom you may meet through them.


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