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How Indie is Indie Music?

Arts & Culture | February 26, 2010

You know the kids: those people who pride themselves on how obscure and/or unique their iPods are. Music snobs, audiophiles– whoever they are, their pretension is absolute. But as we discovered, one look through the shared iTunes library in Tisch will show that the Tufts community has pretty uniform taste in music. Seriously: Tufts kids listen to more or less the same stuff. So we asked ourselves: what if this is true on a larger scale? And if so, how truly “indie” is indie music? The fact is, even though these artists may not be on the radio or at the Grammys, everyone is listening to them. And thank God for that.

Fact: Independent music labels (i.e. non-corporate) are responsible for approximately 30% of all music sales and 80% of all worldwide releases.

Fact: In the beginning of 2009, three big-name “indie” acts all debuted (first week of sales) in the Billboard Top 20: Andrew Bird’s Noble Beast at #12 (25,000), Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion at #13 (25,000) and Bon Iver’s sophomore EP Blood Bank at #16 (23,000). In fact, the preliminary vinyl release of Merriweather Post Pavilion was so incredibly successful that it was only a few hundred sales away from breaking the Billboard 100, totalling 1,500 items moved in the first week. If the album had 1,000 more official sales, Animal Collective’s vinyl MPP (the vinyl record! Not the album!) would’ve outsold the albums of “American Idol” Kellie Pickler, Lifehouse, and OneRepublic. In all likelihood it did just that: Billboard 100 is compiled only with sales numbers reported to Nielsen SoundScan, a corporation that does not count independent retailers or online stores (where most MPP vinyl albums would’ve probably been sold).

Billboard