Indie rock reigned as an underground platform for over a decade and in 2005 it’s floodgate’s were opened to the mainstream and any band from anywhere could suddenly bid for fans attention.
The ideology behind these artists was decidedly indie, which is to say their music would be alternative, anti-corporate and creative freedom.
The methods that indie rock bands used to break into the mainstream culture was traditional old school rock.
I’m sure that this is just the beginning and indie rock would be a force to reckon with and we will be hearing more from breakout indie bands.
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When it comes right down to it, the calculus of rock stardom is now and has only ever been very simple: There are bands and there are fans and when the right song from the right band connects with the right fans, it generates money and fame and girls waiting outside the bus, and boys asking how you got that killer sound on whatever song, and free beer, and free Levis, and the cover of magazines, and playing SNL and buying something stupid/awesome like a muscle car or an exotic pet, just because you can. The whole Behind the Music, we’re-famous-now montage come to life.
Back in the dark ages of a decade and a half ago, the path to this kind of success was the same as it had been since the dawn of commercial rock ‘n’ roll: Get yourself signed to a big label, the kind with the influence, connections, and brute financial muscle to support you and—since you want to be a rock star—your probably self-indulgent, expensive habits. An esteemed member of the Big Four that can hire the producer who magically knows your ideal sound better than you do, convince KROQ-FM to play your single during drive time, strong arm MTV into putting your video in rotation (since they really need exclusive premiere rights to the new video from the label’s bigger band you’re being marketed as heir to the throne of). The kind of corporate power that will hire you the most connected booker and publicist so you get to play the right shows in the right venues and get written about by the right journalists in the right publications all so you can be discovered, organically, by the right fans. Connect the artist with the fans—that’s always been the point.
Perhaps you are thinking that this is the part of this essay where the writer tells you how the internet changed everything. You’re so smart. It did! But the thing is, it also didn’t. The name of the game remained the same: song + fan of song = success! But the means of delivery, everything about how A + B would come to equal C changed, and the year this really became apparent was exactly 10 years ago, in 2005.
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Allow me to take you back. George Bush has just been elected to a second term, and based in large part on his and his party’s banging the drum about the war on terror, the Republicans increased their majorities in both houses of Congress. It was a red, red world out there in America, which meant music should be getting real, real good. And it did. Four years earlier a so-called rock revolution, launched in New York City by bands like The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, resulted in the greatest global resurgence of garage rock sensibility since the punk era, with bands like The White Stripes, The Killers, The Hives, and The Vines achieving substantial commercial success in multiple countries.
There were plenty of signs of what was coming before 2005. In 2004 Interpol’s second record leaked three months before its formal release, threatening to undercut the band’s hard-earned momentum. Meanwhile, a brazen slice of unapologetically loud, dirty guitar rock called “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” by a little known Australian band called Jet was used in of the first iPod commercial and they subsequently went on to sell over three million copies of their record worldwide. But by 2005, it was clear: Indie had gone mainstream. It was as if The Strokes and The White Stripes paved the way aesthetically for an indie sensibility to dominate, and now their immediate predecessors were taking full advantage, aiming higher than the initial wave of bands had, armed with the knowledge that what they have to offer creatively (indie cool) was suddenly big business. For a blissful moment or two, it really felt like creatives were the new corporate power.
By 2005 you could walk into a Target in middle America and buy a pleather motorcycle jacket. It wasn’t long before record sleeves in specially measured, mass marketed frames were as likely to decorate apartment walls, as they were to lie in an artful heap next to a vintage turntable. Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney started including skinny jeans in their collections, and by 2006 the trend had infiltrated malls via Banana Republic and Bebe. Adam Brody, who played the cute nerd Seth Cohen on this era’s defining teen soap, The OC, started getting laid. As the neurotic Jewish kid in Converse who quoted from Chuck Klosterman essays, the idea of this guy as a pin-up would have seemed ridiculous even five years prior. But in this new age of Weezer glasses as sexy and Wes Anderson movies as live action moodboards for the season, an entire way of living that used to be genuinely countercultural—as in you’d get beat up for participating in it—became marketable on a mass level. Being weird became normal.
Given all of this, you’d think you’d look back at the charts from ’05 and see nothing but cool rock bands from Seth Cohen’s iPod enjoying their reign. Not so. While it was the year indie broke, it was also the beginning of the split we’ve seen widen between the Beyoncés and Rihannas of the world and everyone else.
StreeXB would like to thank Noisey Vice for the article. Click here to read the rest of the Indie rock music stories
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