A perceptive reader asked a very good question when he commented on my previous post regarding the indie music revolution currently happening in Malaysia. Here's the comment by Danial:
"Since the second-half of 2007 was the beginning of our indie explosion & it continues to bloom now in 2008 (with once there was four gigs during the weekend, it was hard to choose which one to go!), what would you hope the future of this scene will be, say in 2009?
Are we gonna be stuck in organizing gigs & concerts (it's now getting bigger: RockOnRave & KL Indie Fest) all year long or is it high-time for us to start the initiative in spreading this thing for the whole nation (& the world) to see i.e. taking it to the next level?
What I would love to see is that we set-up our very own indie radio station. Yes. Call it Radio Indie Malaysia (the abbreviation would be RIM, *snicker*) or something. We'll just play music from our local & international independent bands: it'll be some sort of a platform for these musicians to get their music heard for the masses. It'll be OUR alternative media for those discontented "listening public". Who needs the old order? Why not make our own industry?"
Well Mr Danial, I do agree with you on one point, that is we simply need to have our own 'industry' (if that's the correct way to put it), and that we don't need the old order after all. What I'm not so sure we should do is to go about it the same way the industry's been doing it all these years.
Let's not forget that the main reason the scene's got this far so far is the democratization of everything by the internet. The radio, TV and press only took notice when there's already word spreading around on the internet by the kids.
I was involved in an "Indie vs. Mainstream" debate on Xfresh FM last night, which frankly (and thankfully) was not much of a debate, and more like a friendly chat discussing what "mainstream" and "indie" means. I, for one, have never been interested to show nor explain why the things I like are better/superior than others, because frankly I don't think that what I like is better/superior than others. I just like 'em, and that's it. And if I'm not into what you're doing, well it's just not my cup of tea, that's all.
Since what's been happening with the indie explosion over here is more or less an organic word-of-mouth thing, I honestly think we should just let it develop the exact way it's started, i.e. organically. More exposure on the radio/TV is just an old mainstream strategy. There have always been radio shows playing "indie" music for years now, but they almost always get cancelled after, at most, 3 years. Why? Because radio depends on sponsors/advertisement, who look at ratings to make their decision, and "indie" radio shows are never meant to attract to high ratings. Unless you play popular "indie" rock tunes, which the normal radio shows will play anyway. It's a game countless people have played, and it's a game designed to not let the indie kids win.
If survival is hard enough for "indie" radio shows, survival for an "indie" radio station over here is really a futile question, unless we get a rich sugardaddy to finance the whole operation. Now that's a different question!
So really, we don't need to do things the way the mainstream's been doing it. We don't need to have our own radio station. We don't need to have our own TV station, or our own newspaper/magazine. All these things cost a lot of money to even start, and when big money comes into the equation, corporate considerations will also come into the picture. And whenever the word "corporate" is in the picture, you'll only get watered down versions of your original intentions. And watered down indie is never, ever a good thing.
Come to think of it, actually the indie kids DO have their own radio station already, and it's called the internet. We DO have our own newspaper/TV media channel already, and it's called the internet. We can now make our own listening playlist, and find the music we like by ourselves, without any need for any DJs or radio programmers to shove music down our throats. We can deliver news our own way through the internet. Heck, we can even make our own news!
Don't have any "cable" to get noticed? Well go make your own "cable". We have the internet now, so go make friends with people out there. With so many social networking sites available now like Myspace, Facebook, Friendster etc, why limit yourself to just using them to flirt or find dates?
What we do need to think about to go to the "next level" is just to come up with the goods. Keep on writing and recording great songs that people can connect with. You can have all the platforms you want, but without the "goods", you won't get anywhere anyway. So just deliver the goods, and somehow, someway, you'll find yourself going to the "next level".
To me, the beauty of this whole "indie" revolution is that it is more or less like watching democracy at work, manifesting itself in its purest form. It's a revolution by the people, for the people. And it leaves the establishment and the system out of the equation entirely.
What happens next is all up to you kids to decide. But if I were to have any say in it, just don't forget this: "If it ain't dumb, it ain't rock n roll!!"