In 1997, Ayers co-opened the Seattle store Sonic Boom Recordingsand he kept some of it until 2016. Ayers recalls the excitement he felt when the first releases of black-led indie bands TV on radio and Bloc Party arrived at the store amid the 2000s. “I was pretty blown away and thought, Who is it? And then once I realized they were black, I thought, Wow, that’s awesome! I hope there will be others.” Both bands achieved critical and commercial success, but indie bands with black members were still rare on label rosters in the 2000s. former UK independent label 4AD, and since then has seen more black artists sign to independent labels than ever before in his career.
Now Ayers is beginning to see a more meaningful shift toward acknowledging racial inequality in indie music. With a bit of shock in his tone, he said, “The biggest change that’s happening now is how everyone talk about it – not just those who are affected, but those who make people feel affected and those who never knew they were part of the problem and were passively keeping things the same.
There are many immediate steps any independent music business can take to make things fairer across the board. Shamir puts it elegantly: “Hire black people, it really is as simple as that. Shamir argues that indie music should also be marketed to more diverse demographics. “If you’re not putting these alternative black artists in front of black listeners, you’re essentially signing black people to be submissive to a predominantly white audience.”
Asked about the new generation of independent black artists, artist manager Salam points out: “Children are more aware of having ownership or power, and that brings more weight. We are in a trajectory where labels will have to meet more and more artists from the middle now. Having experience on both the artist side and the label side, NNAMDÏ says, “At the end of the day, if you help your artists, you help yourself. So I don’t really believe in the intention of keeping artists in the dark for people to enjoy.
Independent record labels should also not be afraid of losing money on black artists in the same way that they are not afraid of losing money on white artists. “Anyone who knows the music industry knows that most music isn’t profitable, but there’s this feeling that black music only has value if it’s profitable,” says Lomax. “It speaks to real racism in the label world because if it was still about making money, no artist would be signed.” Andere, who launched the careers of several independent black artists like Tasha, Anjimileand Christelle Bofale through father/daughter, adds, “So many of these labels are willing to take a chance on white indie band after white indie band, but for black artists there has to be this whole complex history and they have to have all the right boxes checked to even allow them a chance.
Thanks to affordable home recording equipment and more egalitarian forms of promotion and distribution, there is now a whole generation of young black people who have more power and resources than ever to create and share their music the way they want to. hear. Rather than continuing to use an outdated business model while taking advantage of artists’ lack of knowledge, independent labels will need to stage a future with more intent if they are to retain their influence.
As with so many other institutions, once the independent industry is confronted with its complacency in maintaining racist traditions, it can create a more equal future for all. For indie music to live up to its original intentions and continue to sustain itself at a higher level than the major label status quo, the community must seriously examine the systemic racism of its past and present. The problem cannot be corrected. Structural transformation is needed.