The Overground Indie Fan: A Consumer Force Driving Indie Album Sales 2 Such Great Heights
I recently read that the Decemberists have the #1 album in the United States of America, selling close to 100K copies [link]. It inspired a wave of articles with the generic 'omg I can't believe indie music has done it again', and 'indie is going s00 mainstream.'
I feel somewhat perplexed, because I feel like I scan mp3 blogs, relevant music sites, and other content sources for 'good', 'authentic' music, but I have never really been familiar with the Decemberists, and I don't know any one who would actually 'buy' their album. Furthermore, I do not feel compelled to listen 2 them. I am not interested in hearing sounds from the indie past. Who are the ppl who not only 'listen to', but 'actually purchase' albums from second-rate mainstream indie bands like the Decemberists?
Much like we don't know the people who go to Walmart to make Eminem's / Nickelback's latest album #1 (unless u are a regular at Taco Bell who talks about music with the staff), it's safe to say that the most relevant music discovery experts don't really know who belongs to the mainstream indie. Maybe our heads are 'so far down' in the lofi/relevant underground trying to sniff out the 'next big sound' that we neglect the indie music fans who exist above the ground. They aren't interested in discovering a new buzzband or curating the brand of an emerging band. The exist above ground, looking to find bands that are branded as 'indie', but don't really want to get their hands dirty with the layers of metaphorical soil from the underground, nor do they want to 'risk going to jail' by illegally downloading albums.
This consumer force is the indie overground.
The Overgrounders live above the indie soil.
The Overgrounders and the Undergrounders have minimal direct interaction with one another.
There is a difference between 'going mainstream' and just 'appealing to overground markets.'
It seems to 'make sense' why Vampire Weekend's Contra would 'debut' with 124,000 albums sold due to 'tweens wanting to be alt' and wanting to become fans of handsome young men. However, it doesn't really make sense where all of these overground old ppl come out from in order to buy a Decemberists album. Maybe our heads are 'too far underground' 2 even know they exist, when they might 'outnumber' 'us' by 100:1.
Who is this consumer force, purchasing tons of digital copies of indie buzzband debut releases?
What are they in2?
What demographics do they fall in2?
Should startup indie bands be looking to appeal to the 'relevant undergrounders' or the 'overgrounders'?
I decided to check out the Decemberists' music 4 free by streaming some mp3s while watching their videos on youtube, taking some time to analyze their brand. Maybe if I 'understood' the Decemberists, I would 'understand' the overground.
Here is some other song that sounds like it would have been meaningful during the meaningfulcore era.
While I don't know much about the Decemberists...I don't know their background... I don't know any1 who listens 2 them... I don't know how they have been critically received in the past. Overall, I can say that their music is uninteresting, but I could see how somebody would enjoy considering them a 'band', just because they have a gimmicky group appearance, a singer with a distinct voice, and a pretty inoffensive sound (nice way of saying forgettable).
It seems like a comfortable band for an overground indie fan to align their brand with.
Here are a list of common traits of the overground indie music fan that I am trying to describe, just based on my perception of the Decemberists:
- People who listen to NPR as a news + tastemaking source
- People who still think that 'indie music' is all about 'the live show', maybe thinking that
- Gen X-ers who are just trying to be 'hip' and buying
- People who still read magazines to find out about bands
- People whose favourite albums ever were created between
- Dudebros who retroactively got in2 Pavement because they are old.
- Indie fans who still think 'relevant indie music' sounds meaningfulcore
- Indie fans who still think Death Cab for Cutie is 'cutting edge rock'
- Fans that still compare everything 'indie' to Ben Gibbard projects
- Ppl who still kinda wish 'emo' music would 'come back'
- Fans who are waiting for a new Jimmy Eat World album
- Some1 who said "What is this chillwave fad music thingy scene?" for the first time in the past week
- Ppl who think 'Seattle' is 'cool' [via the 1990s]
- Ppl who still think 'college radio' is a good form of 'music discovery'
- Ppl who finally stopped 'buying CDs', purchased iPhones, and enjoy organizing their iTunes + making impulse buys from the iTunes store.
- Ppl who 'support their local record store', and even chat up the 'dude behind the counter' for some recommendations.
- Ppl who want to be considered the 'cool dude' at their lamestream office
How do you know if some1 is an overground indie fan?
"You might be an overgrounder if..."
-Jeff Buzzworthy on the Kings of Indie Blogcomedy Tour
Potential bands that appeal to overgrounders:
- Band of Horses
- Neutral Milk Hotel
- The Decemberists
- The Arcade Fire (appeal to multiple types of indie fans, but probably sell mad albums to overgrounders)
- Death Cab for Cutie
- She & Him (people who actually like their music and don't just 'get hard' watching Zooey Deschanel)
- The Black Keys
- Matt & Kim (might actually just appeal to teens)
- Sufjan Stevens (crappy Age of Adz album sold way more albums than u would have guessed)
- Sleigh Bells (I think this might be an 'edgy' overgrounder pick)
- Passion Pit (the official bleepy bloop band of overgrounders?)
Who else is potentially an overground indie band? Some1 who 'sells way more albums than you would think' but you don't really know who is 'into them.'
Have record labels and publicists put too much time and energy trying 2 'get on the good side' of relevant tastemakers? Should they just quit and focus on inspiring overgrounders 2 purchase their albums?
Who do yall h8 more: Overgrounders or Mainstreamers?
Are you more interested in being a part of the consumer cycle that 'creates' cultural relevancy, or the part that just 'purchases it'?
What are the challenges commonly associated with transitioning your brand from 'relevant indie underground buzzband' to breaking into the overground?
What's the difference between a band 'going mainstream' and a band 'going overground'?
It seems like the music that has been branded as 'innovative' usually comes from lofi chillwave diy bedroom recording Gorilla Vs. Bear Pitchfork Media Altered Zones -o-sphere, and then every1 talks abt it a lot, and all of their fans download the music illegally. 'Obviously', a 'relevant buzzband' can't really 'get paid' in buzzbucks when you appeal to the early adopter + innovator markets. It kinda makes you think, should the goal of an indie band be to 'be relevant' with a small niche of tastemakers, or introduce your brand to ppl who will actually pay 4 u 2 'make a living'?
Where do overgrounders hang out?
Do they live in suburbia or 'relevant cities'?
What websites/magazines/NPR stations do overground indie fans listen 2?
How do u know if you are an overground indie fan?
Which 'relevant buzzbands' can move into overground markets?
Ariel Pink? Animal Collective? Beach House? Best Coast?
Is NPR Music the ultimate overground tastemaker?
Is debuting your album stream at NPR.com the mark of a band that desperately wants 2 go overground?
Would you rather go 'mainstream' or just go 'overground'?
Are overground bands just trying to appeal to a population of educated, but ultimately 'misguided' alternative people?
Who listens to the Decemberists?
Are older indie bands just cashing in now that their target market finally 'makes money' and can purchase their albums without having to travel to a local 'record store'?
Are overgrounders just 'super late adopters' or are they stuck in some sort of time capsule from 5-15 years ago?
I'll see u
I am happy underground
Even if my head is in the sand/up my own ass
I know that I appreciate the ambient textures
lofi pop chillwaves
I am happy here. It really is a magical place.
Maybe u will never like the music that I 'like'
But it will get 2 u 1 day
And u might be threatened by it
U might like it
But I'm never going to live above ground
I don't want your life
DIE MAINSTREAMERS DIE
DIE LAMESTREAMERS DIE
DIE OVERGROUNDERS DIE
This is a reaffirmation of my altness + authenticity.