Before you begin reading, listen to this incredible instrumental theme to Mad Men.
So you might ask yourself how this AMC soap has anything at all to do with music. This series has been on for five seasons, and it just hit me the other day: What’s exactly right in Mad Men is exactly what’s wrong in the indie movement.
Indie music does not mean being solitary. It means creating solidarity.
Mad Men is set on Madison Avenue, the legendary advertising strip in New York, where ad men created national campaigns in the most explosive cultural era the world has known. The air was absolutely electric. The Age of Aquarius was about to set the world on fire.
The advertising agency of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce had everything. Amazing talent, clients with money, and an unquenchable desire to succeed. Teams of creatives spent hours brainstorming, poring over strategies to create staying power for brand names. Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Jantzen, Jaguar, Heineken, and Lucky Strike among them.
None of these brands were totally unique. They all had competitors. None of the brands were flawless. Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce took each client and orchestrated strategies to make brands stand above the competition with such veracity, we have to believe to a certain extent much of this could be true.
None of it was easy. The execs took big creative risks, clients weren’t always happy, mistakes were made, tons of hours were spent at the office, tempers flared, men got drunk, women cried, and there’s hardly a scene without cigarette smoke. These people had audacity. Behaving badly was part of their success.
Though this is a fictional series, there is so much truth to be found in what is necessary for indie musicians to succeed. Yes, it’s a crap shoot. Yes, it’s exhausting and yes, it’s expensive to be a player in this business. But as an indie, if you truly believe your music has what it takes to succeed, then you have to put in every amount of effort and spend as much money as possible to remain competitive. If it’s impossible to do whatever it takes, then it’s equally impossible your career will succeed.
Most indie musicians get in the way of their own success. They’re afraid of taking risks. They’re afraid of spending either too much or not enough money to support their products. They’re afraid someone will take advantage of them in business.
No one taught them you can’t coast uphill.
Welcome to Madison Avenue.