Idolator vs. Indie Rock: Round 1,000,000

08/27/2009 5:21 PM |

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I am a loyal reader of Idolator, the onetime Gakwer Media-owned music blog written now almost exclusively by Maura Johnston. It has become a populist conscience of sorts for a music-crit world that has always been in dire need of one, and the importance of the role it plays can’t be overstated. I’m perfectly willing to admit that from time to time I need someone to remind me I should be listening to something other than Belle and Sebastian and Wilco, and I don’t think I’m alone there. So the site’s tendency to jump at every single opportunity to piss on “indie” as a genre or a sensibility or a demographic or whatever the hell else it might be is perfectly understandable—except when it’s completely baseless.

In a post from earlier today about news that Death Cab For Cutie will appear on the soundtrack to the new Twilight movie, Johnston says this:

And the pandering to the indie demo doesn’t stop there! According to Billboard “music industry sources have the sound headed in a more indie-centric direction than the first “Twilight,” with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear and Muse all in the running.”

Aside from the fact that it’s perfectly normal for a movie soundtrack to feature artists with a similar sound, and aside from the fact that the very idea of “pandering” to the indie rock demographic seems kinda silly in light of the fact that “pandering” to almost any other “demo” (fans of hip-hop, country music, or mainstream teen-pop… you know, the people who actually still buy records) would be far more lucrative, it doesn’t strike me as all that sinister or dangerous that someone—in this case Stephenie Meyer—has taste in music doesn’t span every genre under the sun.

It’s worth noting, too, that by including artists like Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear on the soundtrack, the Twilight people are actually doing the opposite of pandering: They’re exposing millions of people to music they’ve probably never heard and likely never would have were it not presented alongside something they already love. If this is a bad thing, and if the argument here is that only fans of indie rock can stand to benefit from broadening their horizons, well, it’s massively flawed.

3 Comment

  • To be fair, the difference between the “indie” demographic (and it’s nice that we’re calling it a demographic instead of a genre now, took long enough) and country music and mainstream teen-pop is that self-identified indie fans really hate it when other people get to listen to their (well, our) music. This can sometimes lead to unfortunately torturous justifications such as the one highlighted.

    It’s a side effect of having spent high school cultivating an idea of cultural uniqueness as a consolation for loneliness. As most things are, really.

  • Ah, but you left out my final comment — which had a link to a story on Comic-Con, and the treatment of Twilight fans there that was like they were some sort of scourge upsetting its purity. And as Mark said, I think that there’s potential for a similar reaction from Grizzly Bear fans et al (despite the irony that oftentimes, the online reactions from uberfans of the bands being mentioned can be as crazed as the tweens they love to deride — maybe Stephenie Meyer and the people at Chop Shop saw this potential, and decided to exploit it? It’s certainly interesting to think about).

    Either way, lots to think about as far as who’s pandering to whom here. And thanks for the link :)

  • I guess, like I said in the post, I just don’t see what anyone, let alone Stephenie Meyer, has to gain from pandering to or attempting to exploit the indie kids, meaning, I don’t think Bon Iver’s fan base is going to have any significant impact on the franchise–positive or negative, cultural or financial. I read that same post everyone else read (at stepheniemeyer.com from 8/17), where she talks about the music she’s been listening to this summer, and I have a hard time looking for ulterior motives from a woman who just seems to really like the Weakerthans. Seriously, who likes the Weakerthans? (I really like the Weakerthans.)

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.