Hey there Indie music person! Having trouble making it in the Indie music game and getting your music out there for everybody to hear? Good. I mean… that’s too bad. But fret not, because there just so happens to be a convenient list of 10 things you can do to remedy the situation, and make hundreds of hundreds of dollars. Read on and become ridiculously successful. And also, you’re welcome.
1) Pick an Adjective + Noun Band Name
To start with, your name should probably consist of an adjective, followed by a vowel. Gleaming Bowls, Fiery Protractor, or even Glistening Doorjamb. Better yet, a color followed by something otherwise mundane. Silver Baguette, Turquoise Toasters, or maybe Chartreuse Pigeon. If you’re shooting for a top-tier Indie band name though, you gotta go with a combination of a mineral and an exotic place or group of people. Crystal Mongolians perhaps. Bengali Pyrite hasn’t been taken yet. Cambodian Sodium anyone? Stick with a name of this sort, and you’ll be getting good reviews on Pitchfork in no time.
2) Misspell Words on Purpose
While we’re on the topic of names, another thing you should keep in mind is that you should try your hardest to arbitrarily drop vowels out of words for no reason at all. Every one else is doing it, and so should you. This works for band names i.e. TRSH SNDWCH (trash sandwich), or GBLN MSTRD (giblen mosturd), but it also works for song titles. Generally, for song titles you want to keep it simple, such as spelling “your” as “yr” to retain legibility, yet still net you that Indie Cred™. Make sure to fool around with capitals and lowercase letters too. That trope isn’t only for nu-metal bands. A name like neOn sOdOmy or SKuNK DuST is sure to look great on a t-shirt.
3) Pick Terrible, Boring Artwork
This one is extremely important, so listen closely. You HAVE to have album art that consists of either terrible artwork that looks like it was done by a child, or a blurry, uninteresting photograph. If you’re going to go the route of having a painting serve as your album cover, go with something like a few different colored lines on a plain background, or a bunch of neon green dots on a diarrhea brown background. If you choose the photograph option, use that photo your grandmother has lying around of when she tried to take a picture of her left shoe when she was 5, but never got around to throwing in the trash. If the photo is a Polaroid, all the better. Polaroids are the most analogue and vintage of all the photos, and therefore will net you more Indie Cred™. Just remember, you don’t ever want to seem like you actually put any thought into the artwork, because that’s what mainstream radio sellouts do.
4) Create Terrible Packaging
After choosing your favorite terrible artwork, you need you keep the train rolling by making sure the rest of the packaging is equally terrible. Now what you’re going to want to do is make the CD packaging out of recycled cardboard you found out in the dumpster behind a New York bodega. None of that fresh new cardboard or any other nice material, like brushed aluminum or a fancy crushed velvet. The purpose of the packaging isn’t to protect the disc after all, it’s to project indifference and lack of initiative. When your fans go out and buy your album, they want the discs to have scuffs and dried glue all over them from your shitty packaging decisions. After all, you need to be able to project eco-friendly with your CD packaging, while still being extremely wasteful with your overly-exuberant Vinyl packaging. Nobody’s going to call you out on this hypocrisy, so don’t even sweat it.
5) Make Sure Your Music Is Lo-Fi
Keep it lo-fi. You aren’t writing the soundtrack to Schindler’s List here. You’re writing pretentious slightly-out-of-tune jangle-pop. Your recordings should be slightly noisy, and rough around the edges, if not extremely noisy and capable of eliciting headaches. Imagine what all your friends will think if your music sounds well-produced like all that mainstream radio garbage. You really shouldn’t have to worry about you music being “over-produced” though, since your friend Cooper is recording your album for $80 and a gram of weed.
6) Have an Unhealthy Preoccupation With Vinyl
As previously mentioned, you’re going to be releasing your albums in multiple formats, but you always need to favor vinyl. The format should always take precedence over the content. Even though you paid the homeless guy down the street to record your songs in all their lo-fi, bland, dynamic lacking glory, you just know they’re going to sound sooooooo much better on vinyl. Wave your vintage fetishism flag high and pay an arm and a leg to have your lackluster jangle-pop pressed to vinyl so that your fans can pay an arm and a leg to satiate their vintage fetishism for lackluster jangle-pop. Of course you should pull out all the stops on your vinyl editions. You should settle for nothing less than 320 gram records in a quintuple gatefold. If your vinyl packaging isn’t completely negating whatever materials you are saving on your chintzy CD packaging, you aren’t Indie banding correctly. Please try again.
7) Include Weird Instruments In Your Songs
If you’re shooting for ultimate Indie Cred™, writing music solely using bass, drums, and guitars isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to want to throw some bizarre oddball instruments into the mix. This might involve adding an extra three of four members to your band, but you’re going to need to do what it takes in order to make it in this cut-throat Indie game. So pile into your van and head on down to the local swap meet and buy a Balalaika or a church organ and start shoehorning them into your songs. Keep in mind, you don’t need to write complex parts with your weird instruments, but you should play them well enough so that you look good in your music video.
8) Dress Like a Member of Dexys Midnight Runners
This probably doesn’t need to be stated, but you can’t be a member in a top tier Indie band in this day and age and rock a t-shirt and jeans. Philistines and plebeians wear t-shirts and jeans. You’re an artist, and as such, you need to look the part. Things like suspenders, cummerbunds, leg warmers, cod pieces, top hats, penny loafers, scarves, and vests are sure fire articles of clothing to throw on in order to look like an artistic type. Nothing says “Hey everybody! I’m to be taken seriously!” like showing up to an interview wearing a monocle, pork pie hat, and ruffled bard shirt. If your music is bland and unmemorable, you always have the option of doubling down on a memorable image. Always remember to dress like you just stepped out of 1843.
9) Be Completely Devoid Of Personality
Your bland music should always do the talking for you. There is no need to project an exciting or interesting aura of personality while in an Indie band. If it doesn’t come across that perhaps the entire band is on lithium and bored with life in general, you’re doing it all wrong. In interviews, you should always be quite and meek and perhaps even speak in a monotone. Tortured artist types are either completely withdrawn or extremely brash, and being brash requires a delicate balance in order to not come across as being all flash and no substance. Being no flash and no substance is the better alternative here, so go that route if need be. If people can tell the difference between you and someone from the myriad other Indie bands out there, you are showing too much personality and need to seriously consider dialing it back a little. Your spirit animal is the department store mannequin.
10) Write Terrible Music
Sure, you could follow all the above tips and still write excellent music despite everything attached to it being subpar at best, but then you’d never make Pitchfork’s best music of the year list. You do want to make a Pitchfork top ten list don’t you? Of course you do. So what you’re going to want to do, is make sure you write terrible music. Simple enough, right? You do this by throwing away everything you write that is well written or entertaining, and only release the material that is bland and boring. You’re aiming for songs that Coldplay deemed unfit for release on albums. Not even Coldplay B-sides mind you. You wanna release Coldplay D-sides. Your music needs to be indistinguishable from any other “hit” Indie song out there. This concludes this paragraph, and ultimately, this article.