Wednesday 3 July 2013

Indie Versus Industry

The twenty-first century is a very exciting time to be alive when it comes to consuming entertainment, and a large part of that is the accessibility and prevalence of indie artists these days.

In years past, the idea of an "indie" project was something reserved for hip underground clubs or niche festivals, not the sort of thing we'd experience from the comfort of our own homes on a daily basis. The advent of digital distribution, however, has cut out the barrier of entry for independent projects into the mainstream consciousness. Everything from books to films to games to music -- it's all there at the touch of a button just waiting to be discovered.

It's not even necessarily something you even notice, but I realised today that the vast majority of content I consume now comes from indie artists rather than industry sources. Many of the books I've read within the past year have been self published, most of the video games I've played have been quick and fun indie titles, and most of the visual media I consume comes via youtube. I barely ever watch TV any more, because I can get access to cookery shows, chat shows, comedy pieces, reviews, news, and just about anything I want via the internet, often tailored far more effectively to my own personal tastes than anything the mainstream media puts out.

And this is really the great strength of successful indie projects -- they are able to cater to a niche that suits you down to the ground. There's far less pressure to cast the net as wide as possible to hook in a massive financial return, so artists are able to focus on far more obscure and diverse subject matter. One of my favourite youtubers, Rosanna Pansino, produces a fantastic show in her kitchen called Nerdy Nummies, where she bakes all sorts of cute little treats themed around internet/geek culture. That sort of concept would have a hard time finding a home amongst the mainstream media, but through the power of youtube it's been able to garner her hundreds of thousands of fans and millions of views from across the world.

So indie culture is a big thing these days, and it's only going to continue getting bigger as time goes on and more of the world makes the transition into the digital age. What I wanted to comment on, though, was how this affects books.

Books are a strange little outlier in the indie scene, because even the biggest industry blockbuster titles in the world of literature still tend to come from the exact same place as the smallest of independent projects. Admittedly, there's likely to be pressure on the writer to meet deadlines or tailor their content to varying degrees, but writing has always fundamentally been about one person telling their story, and the corporate mechanisms working behind the scenes have had relatively little impact on that compared to how drastically they affect the content of many other mediums.

It's one of the things that's always drawn me to books, and allowed me to forge a personal connection with them in a way I rarely feel towards other forms of mainstream media. I feel like a book is always talking to me. It's (usually) one author's work, in their own words, translating from their mind into my own via the medium of the page.

It's absolutely wonderful that more artistic mediums are now able to recapture this sense of intimacy that books have held the monopoly on for so long. Of course, indie projects aren't without their faults. Many of them are awful, and suffer from the lack of quality control that an established industry brings, but amongst the sea of bland, mass-market content we see out there these days, the indie gems still shine just as brightly as the traditional ones.

Maybe it makes me a massive hipster, but I adore the sense of individuality and personality that the indie scene is currently bringing to our media, and it's fantastic to see the qualities I've always admired in books drawing me in to other artistic projects.

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