Recently in indie thought Category

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I feel any bare bones guide to doing stuff DIY - especially putting on an event which requires bring an artist/act in from out of town - must talk about the following aspect:

running around like a rabid chicken all day long

Two clarifications. This is if you are taking the matter seriously and it's not a bad thing. I love every minute of being involved in music and the arts.

I know that certain promoters in town who read this point will be actually feeling pain in sympathy as they read this.

So. We've been having a great time getting busy for both this event and this project. We met Ren Hang at the airport as this was his first time in Shanghai. The event is on Saturday but he is also doing some shooting while here. That's where the crossover with the label project comes in. 

Last night we met with Pairs at Yuyintang and shot photos up in their room for rent, which is done out like a dance studio. We hired it for a modest hourly rate and then had complete private use. People came directly from work to do this and it went on a couple of hours - so the other point was to go out and get decent hot food for everyone while they worked. 

Half way through, Ren Hang's camera had a problem. The lithium battery (available only at camera stores) ran out. This was not a big problem as I'd already identified the camera shops in our neighborhood. Because we were spending all week chaperoning a photographer. We were also there to play through Ren Hang's slide show and check everything worked. It didn't, but we got it all sorted because we were there days before.

So, all these things required having money ready too. Not everyone gets this point. I have a friend who was very recently approached by some film makers. They petitioned hard to film this person and they agreed. They then started going, on the spur of the moment, to high profile ticketed locations - then making themselves scarce and leaving the artist to pay for their tickets, food and transport (and the artist had no idea it was coming). 

Also, check out my swish sign in the photo. The plane was a bit delayed too. We got the night bus from Pudong airport (just 20 RMB each) and got into town again at 2 a.m. and then someone called him to do a night shoot in a park. I could go on and on but the basic idea is that some groups have staff for this but if you do it yourself, indie style, you have to be prepared to actually do it all yourself.
ren hang
Photo by Ren Hang. Check out his amazing work here

This post is specifically about the Shanghai underground rock live circuit. However, it may still make you think about similar situations in your own city so there you go.

As usual, there are premises. Shanghai gigs tend to fall into three categories:

1) The audience is almost all locals who are often students or have lower incomes.

2) The audience is almost all international with a lifestyle that allows them greater flexibility.

3) A very rare crossover of the two.

There is an exception. Some bands have built a specific following that they can rely on to come to any given show.

For longer term scene/following building we would all hope that more and more younger locals get involved. Everyone knows this and talks about it. There's no need to expand on this here. So, after keeping an eye on things for a few years and being surprised at how this has not changed much at all ... I give you, the cut off point

<<ticket price 40 yuan and/or the main band running over 11.00 p.m.>>

This also translates into visible anxiety when the band the fans are there to check out have not taken the stage by 10.00 p.m.

This must be observed unless you are super famous and on TV or something. Of course, if you are not interested in long term building, it doesn't matter.

What's a blog?

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from douban again ping
In case you're wondering, the photos come from galleries of friends on

So yeah, we all know what a blog is right? I mean, you're reading one now. They are very useful for the indie mind too. Saying that, there are some misconceptions going around that are useful to examine.

1) form vs content
2) standards and legitimacy

So, what's a blog ... drum roll please ... it's a type of computer software. That's right. It's a computer program that has many functions with the overall goal of letting you put things in the public domain via the internet.

The content - that is the things themselves, words, pics, ideas, topics etc - can be anything you like. So when you hear people talking about how blogs are like whiny personal diaries, they are just making an association. An incorrect one. You could research, write and produce a piece for a newspaper and have it in the print edition and also put it on your blog with no difference in the process. It's just available in two different mediums.

Abusive Editing

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fire cups
One part of the creative world that drives us into the DIY and indie corners is the idea of having to give your work over to abusive editors. 

Everyone is familiar with stories about movies whose scripts are butchered, directors are forced to change entire endings to suit the random whims of studio execs and stars that demand fundamental story ideas are changed to suit their persona.

In writing and journalism there is a similar culture but we are told it's normal and a vital part of the process.

There are many different ideas here and, as usual, it will help us to sift them a little. 

Let's try writing as a simple example.

In my mind there are only two kinds of editing. I'm not going to use accepted industry terms here exactly because they are loaded and abusive. Here we go:

What does selling out mean?

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Ever since humans could put their thoughts down using written representations they have been wrestling with the idea of art.

We, as organisms, have the ability to reflect on our world and lives and express ourselves. It's a natural state, it just happens. Art represents the many ways we communicate these ideas to others.

Once we were living in large enough communities several issues came up. One biggie is art in the service of power. Like propaganda. Some fellow coined the phrase the pen is mightier than the sword.

Another issue is art used to sell things, or the intersection of art and commerce. This is especially relevant today as we live in a global consumer age and the people who run it have the power.

This is nothing new or controversial. 

Talking about this shouldn't bring up shock, panic or defensive behavior. But ...

Suck it, Nash

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I have to post this now because it underlines a situation that comes up in everything I do. 

I'm talking about collaboration and situations where by you help someone simply because you find it interesting or natural. People then feel inclined to help you back - but you are not motivated by the hope of reciprocation and have no guarantee of it, nor any idea of comparative values of the actions. 

I find this kind of social behavior to be normal. 

On the other hand, modern society is dominated by an ideology of competition. Like the idea of game theory.These ideas stem from a concept that social life revolves around competition with payoffs.

This idea is so dissonant with actual behavior that people who live by it seem like automatons driven by aliens. The best example of this are networkers.

The difference between the theory and the practice is that in the real world society has a structure, a hierarchy which is imposed by people who value power. Networkers try to base their social interactions on climbing the ladder of society, seeing it as beneficial. They quickly become immersed in it and are unable to see how it eventually consumes all their interactions. 

What does Indie mean?

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freewillThis blog uses the word indie, but what does it mean?

Indie is a shortened version of independent and in this case is used to refer to the arts. 

The arts are various modes of expressing the human endowments of freewill, self-awareness and creativity. They are extensions of our state of being.

They include thought, written and spoken words, music, painting and pictures, community and play. 

It is meaningless to talk of choosing to realize these independently as we always realize them independently, it's our natural state. The problem is with action that impedes this. Action that sometimes works even at a subconscious level. 

Indie (or Indy) is currently used in the world of arts to describe differing things. Indie music can be talking about a genre or sound. Plenty of indie bands work on major labels. Indy movies are made by huge studios that are called Indy simply because they work outside of certain established systems.

Most other sites on this subject go that way. They start with a D.I.Y ethic and then you build up to be able to break through into the mainstream, on your own terms, or to make the money by yourself. The goal seems the same.

At this blog we are interested only in the notion that we have an idea or an impulse and then we want to bring it in to being and see it externalized in some form. This may require some form of help or collaboration but there will be no controlling factor on your idea except yourself. You will be independent.

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