Most indie musicians have taken their chosen path and chosen their genre because they want to be true to themselves, maintain authenticity, love eclectic and, often, less refined sounds, and last but definitely not least, they DON'T WANT TO SELL OUT. Yes, I said it, we aren't commercial music junkies that are waiting to hit the charts. We believe in music for music's sake, for the sake of inspiration, emotion, poetry, a truly universal language that can speak to each of us. So, if music is the universal language, then are indie musicians speaking different dialects when they play different genres? If so, could we gain a few things from blending the best of breed of 2 polar opposite genres – an indie metal band and pop band collaborating, for example? Truth be told, there are some benefits that cross-genre collaboration can yield for indie artists. Here are a few.
- Developing a new twist to your style – spicin' it up
Okay, okay, I can hear you on the other side of the computer screen just yelling, "I have my own unique style, that's the whole point. I'm an indie musician, damn it." Not so fast there. Everyone one of us should maintain an open mind to adapting new twists, twangs and thrills to our musical style, regardless of your genre. If you're a metal singer, adapting head tone and falsetto sounds to your higher range vocal jams can add a haunting, deep, dark and well-rounded texture and color to your sound. Didn't we get into this indie thing to be unique anyway? If you learn from other musicians, singers, and producers, you've got a leg up on anyone who's staying right where they are – and that usually means they're going nowhere.
- Recordings that can offer great reference materials for further development
Whether you're self-taught or you learned from a Madame Sousatzka-like teacher, or potentially one that's more endearing, recording your sessions with artists from another genre can be hugely beneficial to further developing riffs, techniques, style and during the creative composition and writing process. In the heat of the moment, incredible musician magic and chemistry can bring about unique, strange and interesting sounds, but also exquisite ones when experimenting with cross-genre collaboration. Emulating these sounds without a reference point can be tricky. When you hear moments of glory come from your guitar, your pipes, your drums and then from your collaborating partner's instrument and sound, and finally, you bring the two of them together, there are pure moments of intuitive and heartfelt music that can happen. Wouldn't it be a shame to be vexed about how you and your partner achieved that sound? What a frustration it would be totally fused and energized in the moment from a new sound, vibe, and a new twist to your style working with someone from another musical genre in real-time, and then to throw it all away because you can't remember what you played or sang, and there's no recording to guide you! Record sessions with cross-genre collaborators because you can never know how to recreate that flavorful sound, develop it and use it if you can't remember how to reproduce it.
- Last but not least, exposure, controversial media coverage and breaking down boundaries
Listen, it was pretty strange but intriguing when some of the last two decades' star singers and musicians from different genres collaborated, but the commercial world eventually found the worth of two tones ringing from the dance and metal world, or from hip-hop and rock blending. The trouble is, we aren't commercial artists and as self-respecting, occasionally elitist and always true to our principles-type of musicians, us indies might be viewed as problematic in deviating from our conventional genre. But, let's consider this scenario: pop indie princess meets alternative rock band; both have broad fan bases, in different areas of the world or country, but they have one goal in common – music that's not for the masses. This core principle keeps indie artists patting each other on the back and building a network and community in which we can help each other out. And what better way to start building a community than be creating a wider fan base with greater exposure and new connections by recording or performing with an indie musician from another genre.
Fans might shy away from this dicey move of cross-genre collaboration at first, but on the flipside, you could end up a pioneering, indie music revolutionary. The other bonus is media coverage. And while it may be negative, that's ok – controversy is often what generates interest from indie fans that aren't aware you're out on the scene. You may need to do some media damage control or make it clear this was an experimental experience to learn from one another if the negative feedback spirals out of control, but either way, you increase exposure. The next step is to make the most of the exposure you've gained. How to? I'll posting regularly about a mix of topics. Stay tuned. A440. :)
Signing off, MikeIndyMan Whitely.