Ephemeral Indie Music

In 2007 and 2008, around the time of Twitter and Facebook gaining mass popularity, there was a point where musicians and artists could use the Internet to gain exposure and attention for their music. Remember those Apple iPod commercials? Indie music was the backing track for many of those ads. The Internet became the dominant way to discover new music for the masses.

Artists have more power and control over their creation process; but with this power and control they also assume responsibility for marketing and promoting work.

That has been said before and the trade-offs have been considered and accepted by many artists.

Unfortunately, one trade-off hasn’t been truly considered: what happens to the music after the artists stops creating? What happens when there are no more concerts to go to, no one to promote the albums or to release a 20th anniversary edition album, no re-releases, no compilation albums, no B-side releases, no lost-rediscovered-tracks album?

This thought has been forming in my head lately. I’m trying to learn to play some songs on ukulele and playing some fiddle tunes on the violin and slowly making the shift to jazz tunes and I realized that even folk music has been written to be played. The tabs, chords and sheet music for indie music has been crowd-sourced for a long time which mainly works based on popularity. The more popular, the easier it is to find the sheet music. But what happens to less popular works?

It raises other questions. Who should archive indie music? What’s the criteria for archiving? What about the production of the music? Do we archive the description of the process?

The shared culture of writing down lyrics or guitar/ukulele tabs/chords has been growing and while it’s excellent that someone is archiving, they aren’t the original works by the artists. It isn’t the responsibility of the artists to make sure their music lives on, but it would be great if there were a way to make it easier for artists to keep their music living, such as being archived in the Internet Archive or a Creative Commons-licensed repository of music.

It would be nice to see compilations and collections of sheet music and guitar tablature and lyrics published alongside the collections of classical and jazz and traditional folk music that I see in music shops. It would be nice if newer music were accorded the same archival respect as older music.