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More Videos Ads, More User Acceptance

November 16, 2010
News > Agency

More Videos Ads, More User Acceptance

Folks are showing grudging acceptance of such interruptions

Nov 15, 2010

– Brian Morrissey

adweek/photos/stylus/114697-OnlineVideoL.jpg

There are not only more online video ads being shown, but users are showing grudging acceptance of such interruptions.

ComScore said the number of online video viewers in October was 175 million, up 5 percent. More importantly, the amount of video viewed rose sharply. The average online video viewing time rose to 15.1 hours, up 40 percent. Video ads reached 45 percent of the U.S. population last month, with an average of 34 exposures.

Separately, video monetization service FreeWheel released stats showing the still-new market for online video ads maturing. Consumer engagement with pre-roll ads, the dominant format used, has shown steady increases this year. In the first quarter, 45 percent of pre-roll ads were watched until completion. By the third quarter, that figure rose to 54 percent. Pre-roll makes up 91 percent of in-stream video ads, according to FreeWheel.

FreeWheel based its findings on 9 billion video ad views through the first nine months of the year.

Its report concludes that the Web video ad market is starting to resemble TV — at least for content that’s professionally produced.

“Much early reporting on the issue focused on short clips of user-generated content and showed extremely low completion rates for pre-roll ads,” the report states. “Clearly behavior is different with professional content, especially long form.”

Hulu is distancing itself as the No. 1 source for online ad video. It served over 1 billion ad impressions in October, 23 percent of all served during the time period. Video ad networks Tremor Media, Adap.tv and BrightRoll occupied the next three slots, followed by CBS Interactive.

Thanks to its reliance on YouTube, Google isn’t yet a dominant player in online video ads. ComScore tracked Google serving 170 million in October, a 4 percent market share. YouTube makes Google the No. 1 source of overall videos viewed, however, with 2 billion video sessions and 271 minutes viewed per viewer.

More Videos Ads, More User Acceptance

Folks are showing grudging acceptance of such interruptions

Nov 15, 2010

– Brian Morrissey

adweek/photos/stylus/114697-OnlineVideoL.jpg

There are not only more online video ads being shown, but users are showing grudging acceptance of such interruptions.

ComScore said the number of online video viewers in October was 175 million, up 5 percent. More importantly, the amount of video viewed rose sharply. The average online video viewing time rose to 15.1 hours, up 40 percent. Video ads reached 45 percent of the U.S. population last month, with an average of 34 exposures.

Separately, video monetization service FreeWheel released stats showing the still-new market for online video ads maturing. Consumer engagement with pre-roll ads, the dominant format used, has shown steady increases this year. In the first quarter, 45 percent of pre-roll ads were watched until completion. By the third quarter, that figure rose to 54 percent. Pre-roll makes up 91 percent of in-stream video ads, according to FreeWheel.

FreeWheel based its findings on 9 billion video ad views through the first nine months of the year.

Its report concludes that the Web video ad market is starting to resemble TV — at least for content that’s professionally produced.

“Much early reporting on the issue focused on short clips of user-generated content and showed extremely low completion rates for pre-roll ads,” the report states. “Clearly behavior is different with professional content, especially long form.”

Hulu is distancing itself as the No. 1 source for online ad video. It served over 1 billion ad impressions in October, 23 percent of all served during the time period. Video ad networks Tremor Media, Adap.tv and BrightRoll occupied the next three slots, followed by CBS Interactive.

Thanks to its reliance on YouTube, Google isn’t yet a dominant player in online video ads. ComScore tracked Google serving 170 million in October, a 4 percent market share. YouTube makes Google the No. 1 source of overall videos viewed, however, with 2 billion video sessions and 271 minutes viewed per viewer.

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Other Agency News

Linus Karlsson Exits Mother N.Y.

November 16, 2010

Linus Karlsson, founding partner of Mother New York, is leaving the agency, and is expected to take the creative reins of another shop. Read Full Article

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40 Small Businesses and the Online Tools They Can’t Live Without | Under30CEO

October 5, 2010

31. Basecamp: Starts at Free, $24/month for paid. Basecamp allows us to manage our projects from the cloud. We keep track of due dates, video versions, login information and more all in one place. It facilitates internal dialogue as well as discussions, reviews and approvals with our clients. Wufoo Starts at Free, $14.95 for the paid version. Wufoo is a simple form building tool that provides great flexibility. It has helped us automate many processes by standardizing certain steps of our workflow. It also stores all the entries in a database that is easily searchable at a later date. – CJ Bruce – videoarmy.tv

Check out my picks on this Under30CEO post!

Technology Review: Guerrilla Webfare

October 1, 2010

Fernando Motolese, a creator of viral videos, recently approached French food giant Danone (known as Dannon in the United States) with an unusual proposition. He had filmed a gross-out humor video about the gastrointestinal effects of Danone’s Activia yogurt, and he intended to release it on the Internet. Would Danone pay him a few pennies each time the video got viewed? If not, Motolese said, he might upload an even more offensive spoof.

“It felt sort of like blackmail,” says Renato Fischer, Danone account executive with the advertising firm Young & Rubicam, who fielded the offer. Even so, Fischer forwarded the proposal to Danone. Best to be friendly, he says: “This guy could do something, anytime and anywhere.”

Think of the 27-year-old Motolese as a guerrilla video producer who ambushes companies in the jungles of the Internet. His production company, Produlz.com, consists of a few computers and a sound room located on a graffiti-scarred street in São Paulo, Brazil. Yet Motolese presents a credible threat: he’s the creator or cocreator of video spoofs that have accumulated more than 17 million views on YouTube.

Motolese is part of a larger phenomenon rewriting the rules of advertising on the Web. Big brands used to simply beam messages through TV screens–it was a one-way communication channel. But now, anyone with a video camera and some talent has the chance to reach millions. And it turns out that many budding producers want to talk about brands–whether or not brands want them to.

While many videos posted online reinforce brand messages, others can prove damaging, especially if they’re made by angry customers or loose-cannon employees. One 2008 study estimated that spoofs and anti-marketing pieces accounted for 1 in 10 “advertisements” on YouTube. “Individuals now have more power and influence than at any time in history,” says Sage Lewis, founder of SageRock, a digital marketing agency in Akron, Ohio. “Anytime you allow the consumer to dictate your brand, you have a problem.”

It has also become easier to make money bashing companies online. Take the four-and-a-half-minute music video “United Breaks Guitars,” which went viral last year when a songwriter named David Carroll uploaded it to YouTube after the airline failed to reimburse him for the cost of repairing a guitar damaged by baggage handlers. The video now has more than nine million views, and Carroll, who’s based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, says it led to “the best year financially in my 20-year career” thanks to online album sales, gifts of equipment, and speaking gigs. Some estimates put the damage to United’s brand in the tens of millions.

The phenomenon can be frustrating for companies. While canned corporate videos go unnoticed, those featuring sick humor, sex, or critical messages often turn into media wildfires. “A fight always attracts a crowd,” notes Carroll, who says he carefully planned his video to maximize attention. Caroll’s viral revenge has since become the subject of academic studies on corporate damage control, including a Harvard Business School case study concluding that brands “are no longer in control of the message.”

The power of individuals to shape brand messages is only growing. YouTube now receives as many visitors each day as watch American Idol (about 17 million) and shows more than two billion videos every week, a 50 percent increase over the previous year. Including all sites, advertisers spent $1 billion on Internet video ads in 2009, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Experts say video “brand-jacking” is easy when companies aren’t active online, since a weak video presence allows spoofs and critiques to rank high in search results. Although companies “are getting better at defending themselves,” Lewis says, it’s still the case that “almost anyone can upload a video and have it rank against a brand name.”

Unwanted viral messages carry significant economic hazards. Last year, when Domino’s Pizza faced down a shaky amateur video showing employees tampering with food in disgusting ways, spokesman Tim McIntyre called it “the challenge of the Web world.” He lamented that “any two idiots with a video camera and a dumb idea can damage the reputation of a 50-year-old brand.”

Yet some of the most damaging viral videos to hit the Net have been professional jobs. Remember that fake Volkswagen ad featuring a suicide bombing? Or the 2009 Sprite advertisement that revolved around interracial oral sex? Both were made “on spec” by creative agencies looking to drum up business–and they were so slick that consumers couldn’t be sure they were fakes.

“We did everything we could to make people believe they were real ads without ever actually claiming to have made real ads,” says filmmaker Max Isaacson, who created the humorous Sprite spot to “see how the world would react.” The results surprised even him. After the video ran up 1.5 million views in three days, Isaacson sought to remove it from the Web and issued a public apology to Coca-Cola. He says the experience made him “very cautious about what kind of content I’m creating.”

In São Paulo, Motolese takes a different view: he thinks guerrilla video spoofs are good business. Scanning Twitter for hot topics, he tries to quickly produce videos with punchy music to exploit whatever today’s fad is. And he’s not afraid to go after brands. “Today criticism of products and advertising can be monetized,” he says. “That is definitely part of my business plan.”

So far, his profits are modest. A multimedia campaign targeting phone companies pulls in a few hundred dollars a month through Telephone Freedom, a website that runs ads for low-cost VOIP services. But Motolese has big ambitions. This summer, he played a role in an international cyber prank in which tens of thousands of U.S. Twitter users were tricked into supporting a campaign to save the endangered Galvão bird. Except there is no Galvão bird. It was all a hoax, and now a video by Motolese that fueled the craze was nominated for an MTV Video Award in Brazil.

All this just brings the Brazilian prankster closer to his dreams. “I know what I want in life, says Motolese. “I want to be famous. I want to be a millionaire.”

For brands, such yearnings represent an asymmetrical threat. How can you stay a step ahead of thousands, maybe millions, of would-be video stars living who-knows-where? One approach is to join the fray. This year, Old Spice launched self-parodying ads featuring a bedroom-voiced pitchman touting its toiletries. Then the campaign went viral when “Old Spice Guy,” wearing only a towel, began posting video responses to individual fans and critics on the Internet. The spots have been played more than 142 million times on YouTube, and sales of the company’s body wash have leapt by more than 50 percent.

Some brands are even testing the tricky business of spoofing rivals. Consider a recent hoax advertisement for “cheeseburger smoothies.” The Internet ad, which kept consumers guessing whether it was real, was created by fruit-drink retailer Jamba Juice after McDonald’s launched a competing line of smoothies in July.

That video, with nearly 400,000 views, didn’t go viral by accident. C.J. Bruce, CEO of Video Army, a viral-video marketing agency in Venice, California, says he was hired to make sure the spot got attention; he paid to have it prominently placed on comedy websites. Bruce calls the campaign a “creative way to attack certain fast-food chains” but says that most companies aren’t yet ready to criticize each other, or even to respond to online critics. “Large companies are slow to grab these ideas,” he says. “They tend to want to focus on their own message.”

In the end, Danone also decided to stick to its own marketing plan and declined to pay for Motolese’s Activia video. Despite the attempt at viral-video blackmail, Y&R’s Fischer says he doesn’t think Motolese is a bad person. “The real villain in this story is the Internet,” Fischer says, “because you don’t have control anymore.”

Copyright Technology Review 2010.

Check out my quote in this article for MIT Technology Review!

Why Illegal Downloading of Digital Content Is Good | Video Army

March 31, 2010

Illegal downloading is forcing the music, movie, publishing and other entertainment and information sources to adapt to the new technology. Most importantly it’s making content more affordable and accessible.

The problem is that big media companies are fighting this change instead of embracing it and riding the wave to the new era of distribution. Hounding fans, gathering lawyers to fight impossible battles, and doing everything in their power to clutch on to the old system. The system is bad, the people have spoken, it’s time to move on.

After all, how bad is illegal downloading anyway?

Read the full story at videoarmy.tv

My latest blog post, what do you think?

Posted via web from VA Business & Finance Blog

What Homeless People Can Teach You About Advertising | Video Army

March 30, 2010

Posted on March 29, 2010 by CJ Bruce // View Comments

We are bombarded by hundreds of advertisements a day and when it comes down to it, most of them want our money. People on the street asking for money are operating in a similar way. What separates the winners from the losers? It’s all about how you ask.

The range of questions varies. Do you have any spare change? I need a dollar for XYZ. I just got laid off/fired/divorced/discharged. Need money for food/beer/drugs.

These are the common questions that get lackluster responses at best and usually a reactionary “I don’t have any”. Advertising for your business works the same way.

As your potential customers work their way through life online and offline they are constantly being presented with products, requests, deals, sales, bonus packages, limited time offers and unbeatable deals! What can you do to separate yourself from the pack? Capture their attention and provide value.

The other day I was walking down the boardwalk in Venice and a guy stopped me. He said “I can tell you how old you are, where you are from and when you will die for a dollar”. I was like “All that for a dollar?”. I gave him a buck just to see how this would work. Then he says, and I’m paraphrasing, “You’re as old as the universe, born from creation and will never die because your energy will live on outside of your physical being.” He got me.

The point is that by using that approach, he stood out from everyone else and was actually able to capture my attention. That’s the biggie, capturing the attention of your target audience in the midst of thousands of others trying to do the same. While he didn’t answer the questions in the way I thought, it entertained me and my friends which was worth a dollar.

What are you doing to separate yourself from the competition? Do you have an interesting story about how you cut through the clutter? Or a story about how someone cut through to you? Share your experience in the comments below.

Related Posts

Category : Tactics

read the full story at videoarmy.tv

My latest Video Army blog post…

Posted via web from VA Business & Finance Blog

Clients Say Shops Are Too ‘Reactive’ | AdWeek

March 17, 2010

Clients Say Shops Are Too ‘Reactive’

Poll finds execs concerned that agencies aren’t proactive enough

March 15, 2010

– Andrew McMains

adweek/photos/stylus/130384-businessmen-meeting.jpg

The complaints are all too familiar, but a new poll of client executives finds that agencies still aren’t proactive enough and need to make more of an effort to grasp the business challenges that clients face.

Asked to identify their top sources of frustration with agencies, the execs pointed to “more reactive than proactive” above all else, followed by “poor communication,” “not understanding our company’s business” and “insufficient creativity or originality.”

Among the words of advice they offered in response to another question were “act as a partner, not only a provider,” “try to become more knowledgeable about the product category than your client,” “talk less” and “make sure you have the required expertise in the industry that you care selling to.”

Some 327 marketing execs took the poll, which research company Ad-ology conducted online in January. The resulting report, “Attitudes on Agencies,” probes everything from the top factors that marketing leaders consider when selecting shops to how their marketing budgets will likely change this year.

Fifty percent of the respondents expect their budgets to grow in 2010, though 21 percent of those projected an increase of just 1 to 5 percent. Another third of the sample said their budgets would be flat, and 17 percent said they’d be down compared to 2009.

This year, respondents plan to spend more on digital marketing and customer relationship management efforts and less on trade shows, conferences and promotions.

When asked which types of ad efforts will likely receive more funding, the execs pointed to social media initiatives, direct marketing, online video and mobile marketing, among others.

Cost considerations aside, marketing leaders cited creative capabilities as the top factor in selecting an agency, followed by the caliber of past work, an understanding of their consumers, category experience and responsiveness.

Ad-ology lead analyst Michelle O’Brien declined to identify the companies represented in the survey, but the sectors they operate in include retail, banking, healthcare, technology, entertainment, travel and automotive.

This was Ad-ology’s first such survey of client sentiments about agencies, and the Westerville, Ohio-based company plans to conduct the poll annually going forward, according to O’Brien.

Posted via web from VA Business & Finance Blog

Untitled

March 4, 2010

I Love Blogging!

March 4, 2010
Blog, blog, blog that’s all you ever talk about.

Posted via email from So You Think You Can Post

Pitchfork: Articles: The Decade in Indie

February 27, 2010

Articles

The Decade in Indie

The Decade in Indie

This piece was first published in September 2009 as part of our roundup of the 2000s. In it, author Nitsuh Abebe traces the slow encroachment of typically “indie” cultural touchstones and sensibilities into corners of mainstream advertising, film, television, and, of course, music. The fallout from this process– recently evidenced by the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack to Grizzly Bear soundtracking a large Volkswagen ad campaign to Vampire Weekend hitting #1 on the Billboard album charts– has created tension in some circles and has been embraced in others. As we concluded in September, this is a natural process and worth embracing– moments of tension and doubt within nominally independent cultures often signal bursts of creative energy, inspiring new developments. –Ed.

“I opened up the door, and much to my surprise
The girls were wearing formals, and the boys were wearing ties
And I feel that I should mention that the band was at attention
They just stood there, oh so neat, while they played their swinging beat….
It’s been long overdue– we’ve been needing something new–
Sophisticated boom boom!”

— The Goodies, 1964

So have you heard? Indie rock is the choice of a new generation! Allegedly! Don’t let the exclamation points fool you into thinking I’m being sarcastic! Just try selling iPods or straight-leg jeans without knowing what fresh-faced guitar band is the hip new thing; just try telegraphing to audiences that a character on your television show is quite special and interesting. Stephenie Meyer, author of Twilight, not often accused of lacking insight into the hearts of America’s young, just told the world what her favorite records were this summer– Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective among them. (Do you think that’s awesome, or does it make you want to listen to nothing but rap mixtapes and noise?) I just read an article by a pretty likeable 57-year-old who’d decided indie rock was really interesting, that older people should check it out, and that Wilco were probably its godfathers. (That makes more sense than you’d think.) And it’s not like charts mean what they used to, but still: they’re home to the Shins (#2 record), Wilco (three records in the top 10), Arcade Fire (17 weeks), Interpol (24 weeks), and Death Cab for Cutie, who went to #1– as in, knocking off Neil Diamond and being replaced at the top by 3 Doors Down, that #1– without even much changing their sound from a decade ago. Toward the end of the 1990s the Flaming Lips were the kinds of weirdos who released an album you had to play on four different stereos at once, and now they get considered for Oklahoma’s state song and soundtrack moving funeral scenes in Mandy Moore movies. Let’s not even start on movies: Natalie Portman said the Shins would change your life, and she was in Star Wars.

It’s not just music, either. I don’t know quite when it happened, but at some point a certain vague strain of “indie” dropped its last vestiges of seeming weird and became a commonplace– sort of like in Britain, where “indie” has long been synonymous with the normal guitar bands people find fashionable. When those I’m-a-Mac, I’m-a-PC commercials came out, I even saw some ad critic describe Justin Long’s Mac guy as an “indie type.” Why? He’s just a young middle-class-looking white guy with a haircut. (I’d be more aghast, except it’s actually not hard to imagine him telling you about the New Pornographers.) And soon enough any film, book, or cultural product that came anywhere near a certain sensibility– anything anyone would describe as “quirky” or cleverish or tender– fell in the indie bucket, too: Garden State with its hilarious Shins scene, Wes Anderson movies, Dave Eggers (??), Juno, Zooey Deschanel’s general existence, private colleges, button shirts, the Internet, IKEA, Miracle Whip, literacy, you tell me. The sensibility used to seem rarer, and then, I suppose, half the people attracted to it grew up and got creative jobs and now it floats everywhere. So huge swathes of twentysomethings, like anyone with a college education or a Mac or a strummy guitar record: indie, apparently? Which is allegedly quite the thing these days.

I’m actually not mocking or complaining. I have an ulterior motive. I mention all this because I’m positive that some of you read the above in a neutral, casual way, while others of you, having gotten through it, are right now actively gagging and fuming and experiencing some very visceral squirming, and if you check your reflection in the computer screen you will look approximately like Homer Simpson when he’s choking Bart. Because you hate this stuff. And what I want to tell you today is why that split– the neutral reading versus the visceral tooth-grinding hate-that-stuff feeling– is precisely why I’m really, really excited about what might happen to indie over the next decade.

Here’s the thing: “indie” has always been a baggy, contingent word, and the whole loose umbrella of stuff that gets considered “indie” has usually included huge splits and tensions. Back in the 1980s, for instance, there was a major difference between hardcore punks and what kids in my hometown would continue to refer to as “wavers,” as in new wave: fans of stylish British bands and synthesizers, drama-club Morrissey types. But by the end of the 80s, as it happened, there had emerged this crop of bands that seemed to resolve some of that punks-versus-wavers tension, bringing together parts of both camps– a little thrash/trash/noise and a little arty/stylish/pop– under one big tent. I don’t think it’s an accident that some of those bands, like Sonic Youth or Pixies, are still big tentpoles of what we now think of as indie: They’re part of what brought together that audience, that category, in the first place. This is a big simplification, just one way of wrapping a narrative around what’s ultimately only a bunch of individuals buying records. But there’s truth in it. When different people are standing under the same umbrella, there’s bound to be some elbowing, some argument about who’s taking up too much space and what direction everyone’s walking. There’s tension and then things shuffle and rearrange.

So if you want to know where today’s popular indie comes from, I can offer you a similar narrative about that. Consider that in the early 1990s, “alternative rock” became very popular, very suddenly. It wasn’t like indie’s slow creep toward normality this decade: Alt-rock more or less party-crashed the mainstream, and mainstream audiences party-crashed it right back, and that sent everyone under the indie umbrella elbowing and shoving for new space. The kinds of alt-rock that got popular tended to be very straightforward: fuzzy, glossy rock songs; brash, masculine grunge; blocky, bright, and ironic pop. It could, and did, get old. Again: It’s probably no accident that if you look at the things the “indie” world turned toward over the following years, a lot of them can be read as straight-up reactions to those qualities. I mean, if you happened to be tired of that stuff, or object to where it was headed, then something like post-rock– sedate, studious, un-macho– was a lot more likely to smell like fresh air, right? Same with trippy electronic pop, scrappy homemade lo-fi, twee, slowcore, IDM, lounge-record reissues, or a lot of other things people got into in the late 1990s. A lot of the people making this fresh-air music were people who used to play loud, simple punk and were shooting for something fresh.

And after a while of that, as everyone settled from the shake-up of the alt-rock boom, this whole “indie” audience really did regroup around liking certain types of things: think, for example, of Elliott Smith, Belle & Sebastian, Air, Cat Power, latter-day Flaming Lips. This music was pleasant, accessible, and aesthetically interesting, but without making a whole lot of noise or sudden moves about it. There were things about the songs that were comfortable and traditional, which was how consensus got built around them: They were easy to like. But there were also things about them that, in the context of their time, seemed rare and special and worth getting behind. Some acts were soft-spoken and wry, which was a big contrast not only from pop but from buzzy, earnest alternative. Some, like Belle & Sebastian or Cat Power, had a sense of privacy and withdrawal to them, like they lived in your bedroom instead of blaring everywhere– like there was something precious about them. There was a level of fantasy and whimsy around a lot of records, a light psychedelia, that hadn’t been heard in a while and couldn’t be gotten elsewhere– this sense, when listening to the Lips or Stereolab or Elephant 6 bands, that the artists were picking up different aspects of pop music and painting swoony little dreams out of them. It felt thoughtful, a quality that’s hard to define but a very big part of what made it appeal. Thoughtful and, of course, different. Music your parents could like, but probably found strange: This could feel subversive, somehow, in a world where youth culture was presumed to be aggressively loud. This stuff wanted to be nice; it wanted– rather unusually– to be subtle, maybe even a bit quaint. You can see this reflected in the new influences and heroes it took up and began lionizing: Nick Drake (patron saint of quietude, privacy, and obscurity), Brian Wilson (big-eyed innocence and lush imagination), Antonio Carlos Jobim (effortless, breezy cool), Serge Gainsbourg (louche, but suave, aloof) . . .

Quiet, wry, quaint, imaginative, thoughtful, nice– all of these are qualities that seem like part of whatever vague, ambient “indie” sensibility is attached to movies and advertisements and t-shirts now, right? I’m not writing to argue that you should like it, only to explain what shaped it. I know that a lot of you, in today’s context, won’t see those qualities or that music as at all a positive thing; hell, I liked a lot of those records, and sometimes I can’t see those qualities as positive anymore. But I’m also sure that plenty of you in this decade had a very similar experience– chafing at the nu-metal or buzzy alt/emo on the radio, and then experiencing something like the dorky, semi-fantastical Decemberists as fresh air.

The first cracks in this arrangement started to show at the turn of the millennium. The status quo accumulated discontents. Suddenly the big rap on indie was that it was po-faced and insular and lacking in passion, a self-congratulatory system of people in plaid shirts playing to audiences with their arms crossed. The songs were tasteful, polite, and predictable, and no one, allegedly, danced. No noise, no sudden moves, just a comfy, private bubble where everything tried to be so clever and cerebral and nice. The Internet only furthered this complaint. The amount of online chatter about music was on a huge upswing, and the sheer variety of viewpoints made it pretty hard not to feel insular and over-comfortable. The sudden availability of mp3s, of just about any sort, also meant there was a lot less excuse for not looking outside your own bubble. And besides, why should “indie”– which had, at various points, been a joyously weird dumping ground for loads of misfit sounds– suddenly become codified and narrow? Why should it camp out around music that, increasingly, looked rather settled, timid, and polite? Why should it be so damned nice?

You heard that complaint a lot back then, and at the start of the decade, certain trends seemed to present as antidotes. Personally, I was totally taken with new electro, which felt like everything mainstream indie was not– trashy, party-focused, danceable, dumb and simple, vibrant and exciting. So was greasy garage rock, for some people, even in its least greasy, most popular incarnations; I can still remember a summer in Chicago where the nearest caf�s all switched from playing post-rock to non-stop White Stripes. The Strokes seemed like a breath of fresh air, and people started leaping at snappy, upbeat, big-tent guitar bands as some kind of Return of Rock moment. This should tell you something: The Strokes were not exactly hard rockers, but in indie’s 2001 they somehow came off as surly! Even the Hives presented, in indie-world, as a burst of potential excitement– nothing against the Hives, who kicked out some killer singles, but this seems like evidence of some kind of very deep psychic need. This was the other kind of indie that got really popular: The snappy guitar bands extroverted enough to shoot for excitement and fans– Interpol, Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party.

More importantly, those years saw indie types paying more attention to things outside the indie world– this website’s coverage, for instance, widened significantly– and indie, in its thieving magpie way, started seizing at things, assimilating them. People embraced house acts, got excited about the possibility of “dance punk,” dabbled with underground rap. At first, plenty of folks derided these trends as faddish, embarrassing, or somehow even elitist, like the people who went for them were trying to fool someone. But as far as I can tell, things changed. You can see it just visually: Neon t-shirts and skinny pants and fashion and “hipster”ism– the stuff some indie kids recoiled from when new electro came along– won out. Daft Punk and M.I.A. have big old parking spots reserved for them in the indie world. All sorts of new things wound up getting absorbed into indie’s sensibility, because indie is a superb thief: It gets into things and then picks up their trappings. Electro, minimal techno, French house, the production on hip-hop and R&B singles– at this point you probably don’t think twice when an indie act grabs something from these genres; you don’t think twice about whether the result is “indie” or not. It’s assimilated, just another option.

It’s funny how umbrellas work, though. Because the more some people wanted to dig down toward something fresher and rowdier– noise, metal, club music, weirdo back-shed clangers– the more they left that other indie sensibility, the allegedly polite and earnest and po-faced one, to sail its course. And its course was to get really, really popular. It became the kind of thing an average American teenager might casually listen to without feeling there was too much meaningful or different about that choice: It’s just guitar-pop, right? People who’d always followed it got older and kept listening. The combination of sounds in it– the blend of strong, accessible songwriting with aesthetics just stylized enough to be head-turning– brought more listeners into its fold. Eventually you could hear about it on National Public Radio, read about it in The New York Times; if you followed a certain variety of “middlebrow” media, or even just watched the bands showing up on late-night shows, you’d quite possibly hear more about indie acts than platinum-selling rappers or country acts.

“Indie” got ever more widely adopted as pop music for the “thoughtful” person– the sophisticated boom-boom. And be honest: Why wouldn’t loads of everyday non-music-geek people hear a good Iron & Wine song and think not just “hey, that’s really pleasant,” but also “hey, that’s kinda different and interesting?” Why not, if you put it in front of them? The sheer fact that it was available made a huge difference. I’ll spare you a long, old-mannish digression about the things I had to do, pre-Internet, to engage with the music I wanted to hear; it was a constant and hilariously archaic scramble. But these days, these things float past you everywhere, and I’m hard-pressed to think of many acts I’d recommend that you couldn’t very casually, within two minutes of web-searching, check out right on your computer. More and more, we define ourselves– or pride ourselves, or at least “express” ourselves– via our skills in picking interesting things out of that cloud of options. We probably shouldn’t be surprised that somewhere in this process, “indie” completed its trip from being the province of freaks and geeks to something with cachet– something that appeals to people’s sense of themselves as discerning. Something that is, in some quarters, enough of a staple of “cool” that people begin to feel oppressed by it, to the point where some people’s defense of liking it is no longer a defense against being weird, but a defense against being trendy.

Well. There are major issues and tensions involved in one variety of indie being that popular. Big ones. This website experiences some of them. Pitchfork has spent most of its existence covering both categories: both mainstream, populist indie records and weirder, rowdier sounds. Most of the time, those things have gone together really well; the sense has been that the average “indie” listener would like a bit of both, some pop records to sing along to and some stranger ones to be wowed by, plus plenty in between. That’s probably still true of most of you! But now, more than ever, there’s also this tension between the two, and a feeling of sides-taking.

On one side, there’s a pleasingly large audience who listens to popular indie as a matter of course, looking more for solid records and strong songs than any huge feeling of strangeness or experiment. On the other side, there’s a pleasingly large group who feel like the “indie” umbrella is looking beige and boring, and crave more mystery, strangeness, and noise; who lament that some of its punk energy is gone, now the province of a whole other teenage realm of screamo, emo, and white-belt metal; who miss indie’s being defined by a weird risky energy, and not being too “nice” or “thoughtful.” This website can get a writer angry mail from both positions, sometimes over the same piece: One message that says you’re an elitist hipster snob for enjoying a noise band or “pretending” to like a pop single; another message that says you’re a corny, predictable lamer for liking a conventional indie band.

So long as you get a few of each, things seem okay. Both impulses can coexist just fine. We can listen to both and neither. But when that tension’s felt– when it starts to feel like something’s at stake– it affects what people want to like, what they feel like giving a chance; it affects where they go to learn and talk about music; it affects the music that gets made. People situate themselves in relation to what’s at stake.

What’s great is that there’s loads of real love and passion around this split, and the arguments I see about it indicate that people still care a ton about what they think indie should be like. I was pretty charmed with Vampire Weekend’s debut, but I was also charmed by the way that some people who hated it didn’t just dislike the music: some of them objected, viscerally, to the very idea that indie bands would even be like that. I liked the way a lot of people heard No Age and remembered that they enjoyed indie rock being a little slack and thrashy– a quality that used to be everywhere and had somehow fallen out of earshot– and I liked the way other people sat sneering and pointing out that there was far more slack and thrashy stuff beyond that. I like that people can rally around Animal Collective as something honestly interesting and forward-facing, and I like that other people can still complain that they’ve become too mainstream. Indie still does the thing I care about most, which is providing a reasonably open-minded audience and space for people– like Antony Hegarty or Max Tundra or the Tough Alliance– who make popular music that’s just a bit odd and stylized; all you magpies pick and choose from everywhere. But I like that now, more than ever, I keep seeing that old punks-versus-wavers type of tension surrounding things– a real tension, a real desire for things to go in opposite directions.

I’m not here to make predictions: The last thing I want is for the music I follow to be predictable. But what this adds up to is a feeling that something is coming– some kind of spasm, some rearrangements of where things stand. Yet another big shuffle of who stands where under indie’s umbrella, and where indie’s umbrella stands in the first place. Maybe that sounds improbable, but it seems right. Maybe it’ll involve sounds we think of as “indie” lapsing over into mainstream taste– the mainstream is even more of a magpie assimilator than indie!– and an underground digging more and more for new fresh-air directions to travel. Maybe some kids who grew up on screamo and Animal Collective both with come around and mix up audiences in bizarre new ways. Maybe something game-changing will crawl out of a Hot Topic somewhere; I don’t know if you follow these things, but there are weirdnesses and genre collisions coming out of those scenes that make indie look kinda square. I don’t know what, precisely, to expect, but I can’t think of another time in my life this “indie” world has looked quite so ripe for shaking itself up. I’m excited for it– I think we’ll all enjoy it. It’ll be awesome. I promise. You’ll be there.

Posted via web from Video Army Music Blog

Funny you should put it that way

February 27, 2010