Trend in the Indie Industry

In the indie music industry, Musicians are able to have more flexibility to do things outside of conventional mainstream media.  Hesmondhalgh argues the relationship between the institutional and aesthetic in indie is the flexibility artist and and musicians have to do what they want.  However, big label companies do not allow this flexibility and focus on what is popular and trendy leading to profit.


What the indie film and music industry have on the most common ground is they both work outside of mainstream.  They allow the artist or director to express their views and opinions into their work.  Film and music try to build audience through their work. Artists who choose to go through an independent label tend to go that route for more control and freedom over their own creativity.  Independent labels cannot offer artists money, making the artists pay for career aspects out of their own pockets.  However, paying for all the expenses means they make all of their own business decisions.  The same could be said for filming directors until they are able to get to a film festival or picked up by a mini major.


Another similarity is artists or directors being “sell-outs“.  Independent artists sell-out to gain commercial success.  They use independent labels as somewhat of a security blanket to build a reputation.  When they are picked up by a major label, the labels have more control over the creativity and what is published.  This is because the labels have to make profit from what they are putting out.  Indie artists most times are linked to losing the integrity and support from when they started out.  Reputation is important for getting a fan base and creating more support.  The artists are writing music for themselves – not for radio play.  Fans tend to lose that sense whenever an artists or band sell-out.


An indie band’s sound and style is a unique piece of work that brings it out of the same generic Top 40 music that all sounds the same in mainstream.  “Indie represents the prag- matic 1990s response to that dilemma: a tendency towards classical pop aesthetics, and ‘arm’s length’ institutional ties with the corporations. But to point to the failure of indie (amidst its many pleasures) is not to argue for a return to a punk vision of an alternative cultural praxis. Times have changed: a different era calls for a different cultural politics, but hopefully one which will take into account the lessons of earlier failures.”  (Hesmondhalgh 57)


Business(men) and Art(ist) Don’t Mix

Music has always been considered a form of art which is a large part of why people appreciate it so much. However music is not only about an artist’s artistic expression anymore but has become a product of businesses. Its not that one side is bad and the other is good, both the record label and the musician help each other in some way, but considering that the musicians goal is art and the others is to make money. With the control that record labels inevitably have over the artists they’ve signed its not that hard to believe some change will happen with the artist and their work.


One example of this label control changing an artists material is the young Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa who through out his career has worked independently and with labels. In 2010 Wiz Khalifa signed with Atlantic Records and began working on his first studio album called Rolling Papers, which was released the next year.This album did well in mainstream music charts but received a number of reviews saying that it had a very pop sound and it was lazy lyrically. Which I would completely agree with, his mix tape before Rolling Papers, titled Kush and Orange Juice, is proclaimed as the best work he has done and makes the transition even more apparent. He even states during a dialog section of his latest mix tape Cabin Fever 2, that he may have done it different, but that he was open to working with new people and labels. Another aesthetic change he has had to make is abbreviating the title of his second album with Atlantic Records to O.N.I.F.C(Only Nigga In First Class) for mainstream release.


What’s a Filter?

Nowadays, people are talking more and more about Netflix and what is coming available to the Netflix selection. However Netflix is completely different from television in so many ways. For example, viewers pay separately from their regular cable for Netflix so therefore they can choose what they watch on Netflix. Films and series that are available on Netflix are uncensored and in their bare form. Curse words, nudity, racial controversy, and sexuality are not off limits. Although anything that is on TV must be censored, showing that Netflix is independent in this sense.
Also, Netflix is now coming out with series that are only available on Netflix so if someone does not own a Netflix account and only watches shows on TV then they will be unable to view the series. One series that has obtained a quick fan following on Netflix is Orange is the New Black. When turning on the episode “Lesbian Request Denied”, it is made obvious as to why this series is a Netflix based series. Within the first few sentences, the F word is dropped a few times and right away in the first scene it shows a man becoming a woman. This continues to go throughout the episode as the man struggles in jail throughout his transformation. Also, racial separation is addressed in the jail and lesbian couples are discussed. These are considered topics that somewhat cross the line and could be considered “inappropriate” for everyday television. So, Kohan can put whatever she wishes into her series on Netflix without filter.
This is a perfect example as to why a writer may want to put a series on Netflix instead of television because they can go about their vision exactly how they want to. Also, this shows how Netflix series are independent. Shows on television have their filters on and must go through screenings before placed on the air, unlike Netflix.

Episodic vs. Narrative Syndication: The Revenge III

When talking about indie television versus mainstream television, it is tempting to draw parallels to episodic and narratively complex structures.
Episodic television is vastly more syndication friendly to both networks and audiences because of accessibility: i.e. you can walk in on any episode of The Andy Griffith Show and be perfectly able to ascertain what is happening story-wise. But because narratively complex shows like Mad MenThe Sopranos, and Game of Thrones have ongoing narratives that are linked together from episode to episode, they cannot be run (or re-run’d) out of order simply because there would be no context for the viewer to latch onto.

Shows that are hybrid in their approach to episode/narratively complex run into the same issues. I recall catching back-to-back episodes of Scrubs on Comedy Central. The first episode was a straightforward A-plot, with a lesson learned by the central characters at the end. The B-plot however, was a romantic plot-line. All well and good, but when the first episode ended, the second episode plopped me down right in the middle of a completely separate B-plot. J.D., the main character, was in an entirely different relationship, and as a viewer I was thrown. The A-plot was still accessible, but half of the episode didn’t make sense based on the previous, un-synced episode. That is the hazard of syndication, and one of the reason indie shows tend to be less able to make the syndication jump, based on narrative structure.

One reason syndicated television tends to be on the more complacent side of the spectrum content-wise, is the episodic nature of the many shows that are typically found in heavy syndication. If you take a show like, say, Two & A Half Men, and put into a syndication cycle. 

Episodic syndication-friendly shows don’t have to worry about that. Law & Order, CSI, and Happy Days don’t have to worry about on-going plots and evolving character dynamics. They are therefore, free 

A Fleeting Glimpse at Independence

Desilu, an independent TV production company created by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, managed to achieve a level of independence from major networks during the 1950’s that might be unrivaled for years to come. But how much independence did they really enjoy from these major networks in the beginning, and how did they lose all of it so quickly?

Desilu first got its clout in the business by starring and producing “I Love Lucy”, which had grown out of a radio show that had starred Lucille Ball. They were able to team up with CBS (who was in charge of finance, production, and “selling” the show) due to Ball’s star power and their low budget costs of $19,500 per episode. This show went on to become the #1 watched show in America in the 1950’s as well as pioneered the sitcom as a legitimate genre. A key note here is that amid all of this success, Desilu managed to keep their creative independence and ownership of the show.

The structural independence of Desilu, however, is questionable at best when compared to endeavors of a similar type within other mediums of entertainment, such as the movie industry. A low budget indie film can be produced, created and distributed completely outside of the major companies, but sadly it seems that the 1950’s TV industry was not so lucky. While Desilu maintained creative independence which helped create the sitcom genre as well as the “telefilm” method, the could not possibly remove themselves from the financial burden of the major players, which ultimately leads to Desilu’s downfall. when majors moved in, production cost began to sky rocket and Desilu could not keep up. This coupled with marital strife that caused Ball and Arnaz to divorce were the deciding factors. 


Even if Desilu did not make it in the end, their efforts are still worth commemorating as a true independent. With courage and conviction they pioneered ground breaking changes within the TV industry that will be prevalent for years to come.


TV Loves Desilu

There are many ways, according to Schatz, that Desilu functioned independently from the major networks during the 1950s. These ways could be similarly compared to the strategies of independent film institutionally as well.

Luckily, during Desilu’s time, TV was still in an experimental phase- advertising, networks, and talents still worked together, but the ties between them were not as strong as they are today. From the beginning of their I Love Lucy venture, Desilu took much of production creative and institutional control in their own hands; being able to bargain with the networks because of the uncertain state of the developing TV business. This is how they stayed independent from network’s (and incidentally ad agencies’) regulations.

First, Desilu aided in the popularity of the “telefilm” program; a higher production valued show that was filmed first (not just broadcasted live) with new technologies. Arnaz took time to figure out how to “economize on camera setups… [so to] reduce the budget.” So he asked his inventive Hollywood cinematographer friend, Karl Freund, to help out. We still see this today with indie film:  an effort to try to keep a quality feel to a movie (top production values) but within a limited budget, and with cheap help of friends.

After the success of the first season of independently produced I Love Lucy, indie TV held more leeway with networks. New negotiations between producers, advertisers and networks began regarding scheduling and syndication. Desilu made a brilliant move to use I Love Lucy as a lead-in for another one of his sneakily purchased program December Bride, and test-run a different series during the summer. From there, after a number of episodes were aired, and syndication brought in more profits to the indie producers. Unlike indie film, TV has different strategies of distribution- where a film may find success showing a certain festival; shows must utilize airtimes and reruns for profit.

Eventually, as major studios introduced “deficit financing” into the television business, indie companies either had to pay for productions the major’s way, or get taken out altogether. Luckily (again) by this time, Desilu had enough power and money to continue on independently. Arnaz “wanted to experiment with different programming forms”, but when attempting to sell these creations to networks, they declined them. This is the film equivalent of an ‘avant garde’ film vs. a crossover. Both can be independently made, but only the crossover will be distributed to mass audiences. With TV, the audience may is arguably higher than a movie’s, raising the risk in delivering overly “innovative and sophisticated” shows.

Desilu influenced the television in its early years, with its independent innovation and determination. Just like indie film, it had the power to redefine the business’ formulas and production norms, and it did. Today, television may thank Desilu for that!

Indie accessible?

There are certain aspects that we as individuals tend to always place with independence. Quality is something that is associated with indie films all the time. Hollywood films are always top of the line lighting and film equipment. However, indie films are more original and natural looking. They tend to have a less greater of a quality than Hollywood films so they are more believable and relatable to the audience. Therefore, indie films are somewhat more artistic and more of an art form than Hollywood films.

Indie films are definitely associated with legitimacy because they are less accessible to viewers seeking the films. Indie move theaters are not as accessible as a Cinemark airing the top new releases. One must do research to find the closest indie film theater to them. Also, some movie stores, such as Blockbuster and Redbox, do not sell independent films. Therefore someone has to order them online typically or find them from a friend.

Independent films though are slowly becoming more and more legitimate with the popularity that they have been overcoming and also the desire for them from viewers. These films are becoming available on Netflix now and so this is one way viewers are now able to watch new films as they come out. For example, some movies that we have watched in class are now readily available on Netflix and I am sure more are to come!