An interesting blog that I read recently on In Tir Na nOg (http://medicinewoman.wordpress.com/author/medicinewoman/ ) got me to thinking about the subject of “Indie” artists, or publishers and what is the cost of artistic independence. In her blog medicine woman viewed the term “Indie” as a trade term and she assumed that Indie implied: “independently owned and operated brick & mortar”business. It can be any size business and their product can be anything; books, clothier, deli, restaurant, mechanic, hardware, etc…
It doesn’t mean that the bookstore prints all the books it sells or that the clothier makes all their own cloth.”
This definition seems somehow to miss the point of what “Indie” artists are trying to remain independent of. It seems to me that to be an Indie Artist is to perceive oneself as being free from the fetters of the corporate publishers and their demands to popularize your work to make it into a saleable commodity. But is there really anything to be gained by maintaining such an independent stance when the object of the artist is to make a living? The history of art is all about the compromise that is made between the artist and his patron and it could be argued that these syndicated sellers of art have in fact been the driving force behind all of the arts and that the influence of patrons over their artists has been the impetus for the creation of many enduring and classical works of art of all sorts.
When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, or Van Dyke painted King Charles I, both of these great artists were working to a ‘brief, and in doing so were able to create masterworks of enduring beauty and deep meaning. Modern pop culture is constantly producing patronized works of quality that will endure long into the future. On his Venetian Vase blog (http://venetianvase.co.uk/author/croutledge/ ) Chris Routledge writes about the Hardy Boys and the lasting popularity of these books:
“In the United States the Stratemeyer syndicate dominated the market for children’s mystery stories for several decades from the 1920s. Edward Stratemeyer’s careful market research, and his skill in creating formulaic plots his writers could flesh out into stories, made him rich. What happened to the hundreds of ghost writers who worked for him, though, is less uplifting. The commoditisation of writers on the Web seems in many ways to be a new story, but writers, and writing, have always come cheap.”
Even though these books were produced by corporate methods and aggressively marketed the quality of the work has ensured that they are still popular today. Even Ellery Queen was a corporate/syndicated operation rather than the traditional mystery writer tapping away at a typewriter (it was two cousins and a bevy of staff) yet Wikipedia rates Ellery Queen as the most influential writer of modern American mysteries, second only to Poe (who wrote for magazines and newspapers). Could any Indie Artist match this kind of success?