Posted on May 11, 2014
One of the questions I hear most often, particularly when I make a mix-CD (people still do that, right?) for someone is, “How did you find out about these bands?” I am always struck by how odd this question feels. It’s not like I have some special power to find new music (that would be pretty cool though) or that I’m a super-music scene insider; I just…find music. So then what does this question mean? From my perspective, what the question is really asking is, “What in the world is this ‘indie culture’ business all about, and how does one learn about it?” Well thanks to this fine internet here, indie culture is easier to access than ever, and a few hours on Google can have you chatting about everything from No-Wave to Glo-Fi in no time at all (not that you would want to…because then you would be a hipster, but you might want to, because it’s totally cool).
Let’s start off with the Global Indie Scene. I would define a Global Indie Band as a band and artist who has achieved enough notoriety to tour in multiple nations but maintains their “indie” status by eschewing major labels. It is a delicate balance, because sometimes Global Indie Bands (Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, etc) will be on a major label but will still be considered indie. So it can be kind of confusing. Your best bet to test whether an internationally touring band is indie or not is to find the nearest guy wearing skinny jeans or the nearest girl wearing flannel and ask them about that band’s first album. If they respond positively, the band is probably considered Global Indie, even if they are on a major label. (WARNING: Do not ask about the band’s most recent album or any albums released on major labels. You will immediately lose indie cred and be talked about behind your back (Note: The only exception is Radiohead, whose first album sucked but everything else they ever made was amazing and that-is-not-an-opinion-it-is-a-fact (though I secretly listen to Creep a lot (like…a lot a lot (but the acoustic version)))))
Deerhunter (left) || Kuang Program (right)
The Global Indie industry is alive and kicking at websites like www.tinymixtapes.com/, www.stereogum.com/, and, of course, www.pitchfork.com/. The year-end lists at each of these sites are great places to catch up on music you missed over the year and pretend you have been listening to since you illegally downloaded the leaked version three weeks prior to its release. In fact, Global Indie has become so easy to access I don’t know why we are even talking about it. So let’s talk about a more interesting subject: your local scene.
The first rule to understand is your local scene is always larger than you or anyone else gives it credit for. Unless you are in New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, or Paris, the phrase, “Oh my god, there is no good music here!” is one of the most frequently heard phrases you will hear from people who have spent no time learning about a local scene but call themselves indie fans. I call them the No Good Music Here brigade, or NGMHers. They confuse their ignorance about their local scene with the lack of a local scene.
I understand though, sometimes finding out about local music is pretty hard. Sometimes it does take being in the right place at the right time, or stumbling across the right poster, or speaking the language of wherever you are in the world; but many times a little effort can make up for a deficiency in everything else.
So if you are an NGMHer, particularly one in Seoul, Stop! Before you utter your next sentence/think your next thought, take a little time to do some research! It has been my experience that the more effort you put into your activities and interests, the more you will get out of them. That being said, this whole article is supposed to be about how to find music, so I guess I should get on with that.
Washed Out (left) || Odaeri (right)
The way I went about discovering local music in Seoul, which anyone could do in any language, is simply by searching for terms like “Korean indie music” or “Korean live gigs”, or something like that. The website I initially used the most was www.koreagigguide.com. It was, and remains, an invaluable source for all things Korean music. Later, I discovered sites like www.indiestreet.com, www.krrr.kr, www.muzever.com (which unfortunately appears to be finished) and of course, now, www.doindie.co.kr. Once there, I would scan the upcoming shows and see who was playing. Initially, of course, I didn’t know anyone at all! But that feeling shouldn’t discourage anyone. All it takes is one extra tab on your browser! Just go to YouTube and search for the band and see what you think. Or, alternatively, you could use Doindie as the Soundcloud and videos are already there (please forgive the shameless plug)! When you find a band you like, and I promise you will find a band you like, clear your schedule, invite your friends, and go to the concert! It feels like going out on any other night, except with the added bonus of seeing an awesome band while you sip your alcoholic beverage. So for a few won more, why not add that extra spice to your night?
Watching live local music is a singularly beautiful experience; there is nothing else quite like it. Not only are you watching great bands and hearing great music (in the exact same way as if you were watching one of those vaunted Global Indie Bands. After all, aesthetics absolutely are not absolute), you are supporting your local artistic community and helping to build infrastructure so that the local bands you love can gain more and more success and perhaps one day become a Global Indie Band themselves. And you will have been part of that process! What could be cooler than that?
If you are worrying about your indie street-cred, there is nothing more indie than being the only person in the audience of a young, new band! If/When that band becomes famous you can sit back and tell stories about how, “You were there at Badabie when that band played for the first time, before they sold out.” And if you ever get into the classic hipster battle of, “Do you know super obscure band X?” the ace up your sleeve can always be this little local band you rave about. So…you know, there are all sorts of fringe benefits to listening local besides just enjoying the music and supporting a fantastic culture.
Basically this article is a plea. Global Indie Bands are cool and all, I mean I love them, local artists and musicians love them, but they are not the only good music out there. Don’t be an NGMHer! Go to local shows, discover local bands, and support your artistic community. The more local art you support, the more local art there is, and the more local art there is, the richer your own life becomes.
Pinback (left) || Danpyunsun (right)
_______________________________ Written By: Alex Ameter