Sunday, January 18, 2015

Think Tank: A Modest Proposal To Occupy Radio To Benefit The Oakland Music Scene and Black Culture In Solidarity With #Blacklives Matter, #TheBlackout Collective, and media activists like #DaveyD

Scene: A Think Tank Underneath the Trees Behind the Oakland Museum of Art Adjacent To The Currently Closed Kaiser Performance Center

Alicia: a 30 year-old Oakland woman
Julian: a 20 somethng Oakland man

A: “If we want to stop pricing people out of this increasingly unaffordable city, create anti-gentrification and anti-violence strategies, and help employ, educate, and empower more people, I think we have to start with the radio.”

J: “The radio?  No one cares about the radio anymore….and I speak as a musician. We got the internet. And back in my dad’s day, he could get his music out by selling cassettes on the street….Radio’s been irrelevant for decades.”

A: “Obviously some people care about the radio, or the large corporations wouldn’t have worked so hard to gain control of it, and keep us off of it…..”

J: “It’s always been that way…”

A: “Nah. My grandfather was a great personality DJ on a black radio station. He helped organize the community at least as much as the blatant activists. He had say in what was played on the radio, and some of the great R&B (and even Jazz) musicians were loyal to him, so they’d let him promote their shows even if he couldn’t pay as much money as the white promoters. They’d play his shows because he got them on radio. He worked closely with small local record labels and store owners….and many more made a decent living than we do today

J: “Those days are gone.”

A: “But we could bring them back….”

J: “How?”

A: “We could get some folks together to buy a radio station. The FCC still has three radio stations licensed to Oakland, and the programming from none of those radio stations originates here. That is criminal! Two are owned by IHeartRadio (which is really Clearchannel in Drag) and one is owned by Disney. But the good news is the one owned by Disney is now up for sale….”

J: “And you really think we can get some folks to put a bid in that’s going to compete with Clearchannel, or Entercom or any of those large corporations. The banks have discriminatory loan policies. You need money (or “credit”) to make money….

A: “Look at the history. Before Disney bought it out, KMKY (1310) was the Bay Area’s premier soul and funk station—one of those great right-of-the-dial stations Gil Scott Heron spoke about. In the 40s and 50s, when it was called KWBR, this station helped create the vital black middle class Oakland had at the time! It was so successful, Memphis’ legendary black station WDIA bought it. As KDIA, It helped break Sly and The Family Stone and other local acts or ‘content providers’. This wasn’t too long ago, though it's largely erased. Later, Oakland mayor Elihu Harris and Willie Brown owned it. The late great Chauncey Bailey was the public affairs director. They knew this station’s importance to Oakland’s black community, but couldn’t bring the glory days of the station or Oakland’s middle class back because of the changes that occurred to Black Radio nationally at the time. DJS had less and less power and, as corporate Program Directors and automated formats took over, radio lost its connection to the community. There are quite a few alive today who remember how this station fell, but very few who know how, back in the 40s and 50s, it succeeded in helping coalesce a positive cultural identity and made strides in achieving economic self-determination for many in Oakland. We are in such dire need of that today, and podcasts ain’t doing shit! But even though times and technology have changed, I know that if we study how this station helped dethrone the tyranny of large corporations back then, we can create a station that revitalizes the economy and culture today in ways that will benefit Oakland as a whole! Surely, we could get political leaders who remember the history interested today-- We just have to spread the word. Lobby City Council members, the mayor, Barbara Lee.

J: “I think you got too much faith in the system….”

A: "No, but I got a lot of faith in the radio, terrestrial radio, as a means of cultural production, for better or worse."

J: "Why does it have to be terrestrial radio? Why not a podcast?"

A: "Because terrestrial radio is based in a place, and because there’s a finite number of stations. Thus, each station MATTERS more than yet another podcast. Not that I don’t think we shouldn’t start a podcast too—just that it’s a means to an end, not an end in itself."

J:  "But we still have to raise money in order for our demands to even be heard."

A: "Not necessarily if we exercise our right to peacefully protest in front of KMKY. We could plan a strategic occupation that would show that BLACK LIVES MATTER and BLACK CULTURE MATTERS at least as powerfully as the actions by the Blackout Collective, and others do….A consumer boycott may not have much effect these days (as our spending power is less than it once was), but highly visible protests of existing radio stations (even if they play black music) will help get the discussion and negotiation going."

J: “How can we convince the activists that it’s relevant when hardly anyone cares about finding their music or news on the radio anymore, especially AM Radio!"

A: “That’s only because they’re not getting what they want. Radio abandoned US; we didn’t abandon it! Believe me, if we can do this, people in the community will stand with us!"

J: “If we’re going to get a bunch of folks to protest, occupy shut-down KMKY 1310….or the other 2 stations that Clearchannel has transmitters for in Oakland, obviously we can’t count on this getting media attention, since they’re the ones who own the media. It won’t just magically happen overnight. Those stations don’t even have studios in Oakland. KNEW 960 has a studio in SOMA, and most of its syndicated right wing music-less programming is piped in from some placeless ETHER!”

A: “Good point, but back when the FCC did its job a little more than it did now, it told these stations they must originate their broadcasts inside Oakland; not LA or wherever...”

J: “That didn’t stop them from doing that.”

A: “Sure, but I mention it just to let you know we got the law on our side. We have a legislative demand, and if it’s not met, we’re prepared to take over the radio station….by force if necessary!

J: “We still have to be smart about tactics. We obviously need some tech savvy people who could immediately flip over to our programming. And couldn’t they over-ride whatever we’d do with these frequencies from their national headquarters?

A: “All these stations—no matter how placeless—still have transmitters that have to legally send their signals out from Oakland. I know a few people from the industry—basically discontented pawns pushing buttons for the man—who could work it from the inside.”

J: “But the owners of the media conglomerates got guns, the militarized police will rally on their behalf, and aren’t afraid of killing us….and the FCC isn’t going to regulate them, or side with us….they got bought off with kickbacks.”

A: “But if people knew what the FCC was supposed to do, they’d know that these stations are NOT operating in the public interest, serving local communities. We need to educate them….”

J: “You’re talking a very long-term plan, changing the entire culture, just like the corporations were able to do gradually over the last third of the 20th century. It’s a catch 22. If we want a voice, we need the radio or TV to tell people why it’s important to take over the radio! Otherwise, we’ll lose the public relations battle; we’re gonna be painted as a bunch of radical, revolutionary, extremists…”

A: “So we need to be smart and work on several fronts at once, and not let the corporate media know our plans until we got our ducks in a row.”

J: “That’s almost impossible to do---not just because of phone-tapping and their ability to hack, but because it’s hard to find a place to organize when most kids—and even adults-- know more about the corporate approved or pushed programming (music and talk) than they do about the brilliant musicians and talkers in their own neighborhood.”

A: “But our demands are, frankly, very modest. All we ask for is one (1) non-corporate run commercial radio station per town, or market. And we will need to work on the legal front at the same time we plan an action to Occupy Radio. Write manifestoes, use podcasts while we still have a modicum of de jure net neutrality, even work on a block-by-block grassroots level through word of mouth and fliers and folks on bikes and street corners and community centers and Black Student Unions spreading the word. Yes, bring back house parties that are also organizational meetings—hush harbors for the mass media era. Link up with the “Fuck the police & the (In)justice system” protestors---and win over the intelligentsia skeptical of those kind of protests on the grounds that they’re too superficial and ultimately ineffective. Radio can help build the wider coalition that is a crucial site for the struggle. We can make room for radio personalities who want a solid basis for black capitalism, as well as revolutionaries. We encourage a wide range of opinion, like KPOO does.”

J: “But you want the station to be commercial, right?”

A: “Yeah, the community run stations like KPOO don’t bring money back into the community….”

J: “Don’t say anything bad about KPOO….”

A:“I wasn’t! I love KPOO. KPOO’s an important resource, ally, teacher, and in many ways this station would be based on them.”

J: “But you want it to be commercial? That’s a big difference that will require compromise---compromise with the very forces we’re struggling against. How else are you going to find advertisers? The game is rigged against us. The corporate advertisers don’t even care about ratings. We could prove more popular than them, and still not get advertising.”

A: “We’ll get locally black owned businesses..”

J: “There aren’t enough of them to go around these days….and the few that are left are struggling.”

A: “We’ll give them very cheap advertising rates, maybe operate on a barter economy the first year….We’ll encourage start ups and work with others starting new businesses. Run on enthusiasm, people power. Strength in numbers. It’s got to be a long term plan, and both can benefit if we think long term. In the meantime, maybe we put out a challenge to celebrities like Jay-Z, E-40, Richard Sherman, Chris Rock or Spike Lee to help underwrite it first…and if we struggle, we’ll just make sure the DJs and Radio personalities will be willing to work for less money at first. It can’t be any worse for them than the podcasts many of them do for little or no money. Our goal is a worker owned collective

J: “That ain’t going to be easy…”

A: “But you grant it’s not impossible. Musicians and other unemployed and underemployed culture workers (content providers) from the creative class will see how it benefits them….that it’s just one arena in a larger, more comprehensive, struggle. We’ll get white allies….”

J: “Watch out. They may just want a piece of the action, and find yet another way to make money off us and rob us.”

A: “We just gotta be vigilant, and stand our ground. That’s where our parents’ generation failed in the 70s and 80s. In radio, people like Frankie Crocker. I know quite a few whites who’d rather give their money to a black man whose music has given them pleasure (and even saved them) than to a white Corporate Person. “

J: “I know others who are deluded enough to think they already are giving their money to a black man or woman while they’re really giving it to white companies.”

A: “We can teach them the real deal, and if there are any black folks deluded enough to think that way, we can teach them too….and they’ll feel the benefits of this lesson in their pocketbooks……at the very least, the music will be better, more vital.

J: “Civic pride will grow with self-determination.”

A: “And maybe the working class whites will also demand their own locally owned radio station once they realize they can’t get ours.”

J: “Great, there’s room on the dial for them too. But—don’t ever forget-- more whites like listening to black music than blacks like listening to white music—that’s the dirty little secret the corporations don’t want us to know! So even if the whites take over 960AM while we got the other Oakland station (like 1310 and/or 910), they can’t do without what we’ll provide. Sure, some of the local black talent may cross over to the white stations, and eventually maybe even to the white run corporate stations, but if we’re vigilant, they can’t coopt it. As my grandfather told me, in order to cross over, there has to be a place to cross over from!

A: “The DJs and radio staffers need to be very resourceful, and understand that music stretches beyond the mere ‘entertainment industry’---that it’s political, spiritual, and holistic…”

J: “Yeah, but it’s still gotta be fun. “

A: "We don’t have to get all ‘it’s good for you’ as if that’s going out of your way. Just let it seduce. I think that’s what people crave, if given a chance. The owners will never willingly give that chance, unless they make a tactical error like they did in the 1940s…."

J: "Before we can get to that, we need other short term goals, or strategies and tactics established….this is why I brought up a podcast."

A: "Yes, we’ll use the podcast forum as a testing ground. Do as much as we can do there as if a podcast can make the radio superfluous. It can’t, and the corporations know it--but let’s make sure this podcast is different than most of them, that it’s connected to local communities, and broadcasts from barbershops. Beauty salons, restaurants, corner stores, bars, nightclubs, house parties in ways that can re-establish connections in a fragmented community. Show unity in diversity against a common enemy. And make it clear we value small, sustainable, businesses, that smaller is better, since history teaches that when we try to compete with large corporations on the own terms, we always lose. We need to make them responsible to us—and if we can’t get them to employ us, and operate in the interest of the local community, we have no choice, but to shut them down!"

Thursday, January 1, 2015

What, If Anything, Can David Lowery or Steve Albini Teach Us About The State of The Music (Industry) Today?

The arguments over free downloading and its effect on musicians and music lovers have, once again, flared up on social media. Judging by the clogged comment boxes on reposts of essays by veteran "indie" musicians Steve Albini and David Lowery, it’s clear that many are worried about the state of the music industry today. Clearly it has transformed in the last decade—for better or worse? And, if for worse, what can be done to make it better? Can independent (non corporate sponsored) musicians navigate this new technology to our benefit?  And, if so, how? Although the arguments tend to get reduced to click bait, the contrasting positions of these two musicians are a good place to start to consider this controversy that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

On the one hand, Albini optimistically speaks in defense of fantastic new developments the internet affords both fans and musicians, while others dismiss his arguments as Randian. On the other hand, Lowery pessimistically criticizes these developments and is derisively dismissed as “an old fogey, or someone who won’t let go of the past.” (Culture Crash, 104). While both men appeal to the lesser-known musician and music appreciator, Albini supports today’s status quo, while Lowery searches for alternatives to it. In 1993, it was Lowery who embraced the status quo while Albini argued against it. Revisiting the “indie rock” world of that 1993, as well as the 80s underground music scene from which both these men emerged, may help illuminate today’s debates.

For many, the early 1990s period was/is seen as a golden age—and, in retrospect, perhaps the last golden age-- of grassroots independent American musical culture if compared to the developments of the subsequent two decades. It is during this era when Albini and Lowery achieved their biggest success in pop-culture. Perhaps Albini’s biggest success came with producing Nirvana’s In Utero, while Lowery’s had come as lead singer of “indie rock” band Cracker. These can serve as two contrasting examples of how independent musicians negotiated with the demands of a corporate dominated industry while still maintaining the alternative/street or “college rock” cred they achieved during the 80s (whether through Big Black or Camper Van Beethoven).

Albini, as a producer, could always keep at least one foot out of the coopting corporations (“one foot in the door, the other foot in the gutter/ the sweet smells that you adore, I think I’d rather smother!” as Paul Westerberg would put it). With his recording studio day job, Albini wasn’t dependent on the whims of the corporations. If the corporations turned away from indie rock as they largely did by 2000 (with a rare White Stripes exception here and there), Albini could remain grounded in punk’s low-fi jam-econo alternative economy and held onto aspects of the DIY aesthetic in a kind of recession proof field. I remember working with him in 1999 and applauding as he bragged that he could gouge the bands on the corporate labels, and then take that money and charge independent bands less—he represented a kind of heroic Robin Hood figure in this regard.

David Lowery, on the other hand, achieved more mainstream success in his own band’s name during the early 90s.  In Cracker, his persona as a musician did still partake in some of the quirky, smart-ass, yet cute California laid-back, cow-punk defiance that characterized his 80s band Camper Van Beethoven (whose most famous song, especially after Bowling For Columbine was “Take The Skinheads Bowling”).

In both cases, whether fronting Cracker or producing Nirvana, both Lowery and Albini had managed to make the transition from the smaller clubs and college radio scenes of the 1980s to the increasing Winner-Take-All (or All-Or-Nothing) corporate run music economy. The difference between the 80s and 90s, from this perspective, parallels the difference in rock music between the 60s and 70s; Cracker was to CVB what the arena rock band The Faces were to the Small Faces, or Led Zeppelin to The Yardbirds---both aesthetically and in the way they were distributed. Also, from this perspective Cracker, unlike Camper Van Beethoven, isn’t strictly speaking “indie rock,” but rather (as Wikipedia puts it) alternative rock.

If viewed from the perspective of mainstream culture, the early 90s seemed like a cultural opening (both Big Black and Camper Van Beethoven were non-entities in the era of Madonna/Michael Jackson and the Big Hair Bands), no wonder so many claimed that, in crossing over, WE (the underground, including hip hop) WON! As Scott Timberg puts it:

"The ‘90s saw the flowering of indie, or ‘alternative’ rock, and (commercial AOR) radio---which had been locked in a restrictive, repetitive ‘classic rock’ format enforced by unadventurous programmers for at least two decades—had the chance to open up.” (Culture Crash, 95). The corporations had finally seen the light, and now we could have Lollapalooza (just as the baby boomers had Woodstock, which was really just an advertisement for the more expensive, white suburbs and the bigger-is-better society of the spectacle the corporations benefit by).

Yet, for every one celebrating Nirvana’s cross over success and claiming WE WON, there was another one calling Cobain a sell out, or a victim of forces beyond his control. Amid the debates of this time, Steve Albini published his seminal essay “The Problem With Music” in 1993. In that essay, he urges fellow musicians to avoid signing with a major corporate label—not on any particular moral “sell-out” grounds, but because the label-industry of the time was inefficient, exploited musicians and led to sub par music. He was arguing out of enlightened self-interest.

By contrast, Lowery was enjoying the most successful, biggest selling album of his career (both before and since) released on Richard Branson’s Virgin Records (which had been sold to Thorn EMI a year earlier). At the time, Lowery clearly was optimistic about the “free market” and appealed to the post-Nirvana wave of youthful optimism that characterized this time in the lyrics to one of Cracker’s biggest hits:

Yeah, we ain't got no government loans
And no one sends a check from home
And get this, we're just doin' what we wanna—
  Cracker, “Get Off This”

Albini and Lowery were both letting their own hedonistic freak flags fly (though Cracker was certainly tamer, and more in line with a conventional rock band formula than Camper Van Beethoven was, and Albini’s production of Nirvana was certainly no Rape Man!), and express a cockiness that could stick it to the man! The main difference being that Albini was mostly criticizing the large corporations, while Lowery, who was working for Virgin/EMI, mostly went after the government.

Meanwhile, the grassroots scenes that made both hip hop and punk (or ‘indie’) so vital in the 80s was being undercut; the ground was crumbling or eroding beneath the well-hyped success stories---thanks to the corporate co-opting and colonizing that narrowed out the range of options (marginalizing “conscious hip hop” as well as the quirkier white indie acts from the select choice cuts it put forth as commodity). While Cracker crossed over, the weirder Monks Of Doom, the other members of Lowery’s storied 80s band, Camper Van Beethoven, languished in obscurity; while Dean Wareham’s Luna crossed over to an extent, the other 2/3 of Galaxie 500 didn’t; while Albini made money off Nirvana and Robert Plant, that didn’t mean his own band Shellac crossed over (not that he needed it). The underground, indie, college radio culture, with its more eclectic and democratic playlists that had nourished both Albini and Lowery’s career, became decimated as “commercial alternative” stations sprung up. And by 1996, with the passage of the telecommunications act, which both consolidated corporate ownership of radio, and paved the way for iPOD culture, this window (of opportunity) was shut again, just like the coffins over the corpses of Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur.

After the corporations had succeeded in destroying, for many, the viable ‘jam econo’ strength in numbers scene that Azerrad and others justly mythologize, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as Timberg puts it, was “a gift to corporate consolidation, and especially to Clear Channel Communications. ‘Radio’s Big Bully,’ as the journalist Eric Boehlert had dubbed the company, swallowed hundreds of stations and standardized their playlists; other consolidations followed suit….now any possibility of a fresh sound on the air was gone. If a song took too long for test audiences to recognize, it was eliminated---so the range of bands that listeners heard narrowed.” (95).

Cracker’s 1996 album, ironically called The Golden Age, and many others like it as a result bombed when corporate controlled pop came to dominate the late 90s (for instance, the corporations could borrow the image from the “chick rock” phenomena to transition people from Alanis to the Spice Girls to Brittney Spears thus making the pop music of 2000 very similar to the pop music of 1990 as if Nirvana or PJ Harvey, to say nothing of Public Enemy, had never happened).

In this sense, Albini’s 1993 essay proved to be all too true, and the optimistic sentiments expressed in Cracker’s “Get Off This” seem more and more naïve. Lowery may not have directly needed a government loan to do what he wants to, but he, and other indie and alternative rockers, did need government regulations. College radio, which had played a large part in developing his reputation during the 80s was created by government intervention. These stations, serving the public interest, were also run on a volunteer economy, often by students who themselves needed government loans to attend college. The corporations wanted control of the entire airwaves (and since the telecom act, with some insidious dealing, they have come closer to achieving this---see, for instance, the case of Entercom;’s crafty maneuvering to crush San Francisco’s KUSF in 2010).  And, once these corporations were deregulated in 1996, there was no room for bands like Cracker, to say nothing of the weirder Camper Van Beethoven.

Considering these lyrics to “Get Off This” in light of Lowery’s passionate activism 20 years later against the 21st Century Technopoly may very well reveal the tragic hubris many shared in the early 90s, especially if we contrast what has happened to Lowery to what has happened to Albini in the same two decade period. While Lowery, and many others like him, “have been hit especially hard by the meltdown of the record industry” (Timberg, 88) since 2001, Albini has not suffered---in large part because he didn’t put all—or even most—of his eggs in that corporate basket. Lowery’s career, by contrast, had already been on the decline before iTunes came along.

Yet, the Telecommunications Act didn’t simply kill old models of production, it also, at first, seemed to offer new possibilities that could make up for what was lost for  independent musicians. Both Albini and Lowery, in their different ways, embraced these new technological possibilities: “We thought we’d make more money through disintermediation and selling music directly to fans,” Lowery claims (Culture Crash, 114) Lowery, however soon found that cutting out the record-label as middle man just created a new, bigger, middleman. “We brought [Facebook] all our fans, and now they’re selling them back to us. That’s classic exploitative re-intermediation. But we should have seen this coming—the people with the biggest computer servers, the biggest marketing budget, will win.” (Timberg 115)

Thus, David Lowery, 20 years after “Get Off This” has changed his tune, and is one of the most vocal proponents of government regulation of the free market. In the process, he has aligned himself with the RIAA labels, those who Albini calls “the administrative parts of the old record business,” who seem like the little guy compared to the Telecom Monopolies that have been made possible by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Albini, by contrast, sees the internet as an extension, a continuation, and even a culmination, of the “old underground” from the 80s in which he, as well as Lowery, cut their teeth. Albini thus maintains his optimism about the internet—in part because he’s not interested in making money through selling recordings as Lowery is, and assumes that music listeners have money for the more expensive technological gadgets.

Albini considers the RIAA labels “the framework of an exploitative system that I have been at odds with my whole life” (Face The Music), but neither does he argue for the government to regulate them. He can still brag he needs no government loan, and just does what he wants to. He believes the internet has both benefitted fans as well as musicians through the very cutting out of the record label’s middleman that Lowery had come to realize he was duped by. “The internet has facilitated the most direct and efficient, compact relationship ever between band and audience. And I do not mourn the loss of the offices of inefficiencies that died in the process.” (Face The Music)

By contrast, Lowery shows how the new model hurts both fans and bands. He likens filesharing and free downloading to “looting” and claims that “Verizon, AT&T, Charter, etc etc. are charging a toll….to get the free stuff… need to have a $1,000 dollar laptop, a $500 dollar iPhone or $400 Samsung tablet. It turns out the supposedly “free” stuff really isn’t free. In fact it’s an expensive way to get “free” music….and none of that money goes to the artists!”

Both Albini and Lowery make excellent points and both are right from their perspective, and even though they appear to be on opposite sides of the debate over the deregulated free file sharing culture of the internet today, it’s reductive to simply argue that Lowery prefers the “old system” while Albini prefers the “new system” especially if we consider the ways in which the pre-internet “indie” or underground world of the 1980s from which both came was opposed to what both refer to as the “old system” (the corporate system that dominated during the 80s and 90s, pre-internet era in which the CD dominated).

In his keynote address at the Face The Music symposium in Melbourne, Albini describes why this 80s underground/independent model was better than the old corporate model Lowery seems to want to defend. In the 1980s, “bands existed outside that label spectrum. The working bands of the type I’ve always been in, and for those bands everything was always smaller and simpler….”

This doesn’t mean that it was a bed of roses:

“Local media didn’t take bands seriously until there was a national headline about them so you could basically forget about press coverage. And commercial radio was absolutely locked up by the payola-driven system of the pluggers and program directors….So these independent bands had to be resourceful. They’d built their own infrastructure of independent clubs, promoters, fanzines and DJs. They had their own channels of promotion, including the beginnings of the internet culture that is so prevalent today – that being bulletin boards, and newsgroups. These independent bands even made their own record label. Some were collectives and those that weren’t were likely to operate on a profit-sharing basis that encouraged efficiency, rather than a recoupable patronage system that encouraged indulgence.

That’s where I cut my teeth, in that independent scene full of punks and noise freaks and drag queens and experimental composers and jabbering street poets. You can thank punk rock for all of that. That’s where most of us learned that it was possible to make your own records, to conduct your own business and keep control of your own career….And there was a healthy underground economy of bands making a reasonable income owing to the superior efficiencies of the independent methods. My band, as an example, was returned 50% of the net profit on every title that we released through our record label. I worked it out and that earned us a better per-piece royalty than Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Madonna or any other superstar operating concurrently. And we were only one of thousands of such bands.” (Face The Music)

Although both Albini and Lowery cut their teeth in this non-corporate pre-internet music economy, neither of them go so far as to use their voices or influences to argue for trying to recreate it, against both the RIAA and Tech profiteers. Albini thinks the internet is at least as good as what was lost, while Lowery seems more interested in reinstating the RIAA’s dominance and imposing regulations on tech companies to stop the bleeding. Both, in the differing ways, are fighting for the right of the individual rather than of the scene. Indeed, since they both “developed reputations during the label era,” they thus “don’t need the same kind off publicity support and investment some labels used to offer.” (Culture Crash, 111).

That’s the point that needs to be emphasized for the independent musician (of any genre, not just “indie rock”) who is trying to develop a reputation today, or for the fan of music who values being part of a contemporary independent music scene at least as vital and self-sustaining as the scene Lowery, Albini, and many others first emerged from. Can people unite today, and be as resourceful, as we were in the 1980s? If so, can Albini or Lowery bring their not inconsiderable clout to this larger cause that could benefit the music culture? Perhaps….but ultimately it’s probably more important to look at what they did (then), and not what they say (now)…and, put down our privatized iPod and try to bring the word “independent” back to the collective meaning it had back in the 80s if not the more individualistic one it has had since the corporate-dominated 90s.

Chris Stroffolino