When indie music first emerged, it was an unfamiliar type of music to many Koreans. On November 6th, a new album released by the famous indie band, Jannabi, recorded high ranks in the music chart. Even though indie music is becoming popular among Korean listeners these days, there are many unknown indie musicians. Korean indie musicians are not getting the huge support from big agencies that they deserve and are forced to make their music self-sufficiently. Therefore, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) would like to find out the background of indie music, its special points, and prospects.
What Is Indie Music?
The name, indie music is derived from the word, independent. As it can be assumed from the meaning of independent, indie musicians do not belong to big companies, but instead to small scale companies, which especially manage indie musicians, or they produce music by themselves. A lot of people think indie music only indicates one genre thinking that they just sing with guitars.
|Famous British band, Radio Head (open.spotify.com)|
However, indie music does not describe only one genre but also other diverse genres like rock, pop, acoustic, or folk. For example, indie musicians include rock musicians such as Guckkasten or acoustic musicians such as Yun DDan-DDan. Two Different Generations of Indie Music in Korea In the 1990s, the first generation of indie music appeared in Korea, as many rock bands who were influenced by the British band, Radio Head, came out. From that time, rock bands became popular even though this genre was not that famous in the past. At the end of the 1990s, famous bands like Crying Nut and Nobrain came out and they started to spread indie music in Korea. The representative indie rock band, Nell, who is still popular with the public also started to produce music around this period. Then, the second generation of indie music began at the start of the 2000s. As huge entertainment companies and online music charts appeared, indie musicians became less popular. From the end of the second generation, however, which was the end of the 2000s, they gained popularity again with the emergence of new content, stages, and programs for indie musicians. An example of the program is the online music channel, Onstage, which provided opportunities for indie musicians to grow more popular by playing their music on this stage. This program eventually allowed them to become more exposed to many people. Currently, many unique and diverse indie musicians came out and they finally received popularity not only from the public but also from professional music critics.
Characteristics of Indie Music in Korea
Independent Production of Music
Indie musicians do not work in big companies that usually train idol groups or solo artists. They simply produce their own songs and prepare the stages by themselves. They write lyrics, compose, and arrange the music independently and make themselves up before they perform to the public. There are both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that, indie musicians can have music activities based on their preferences without any interference of companies. On the other hand, a big disadvantage is that, there are monetary problems and limits in performing on broadcasting stations since they do not have huge supportive agencies. Also, they are not able to debut with the big spotlight on them in public because the name value of companies is not that high among the public.
Street Performances: Busking
Street performance, which is known as busking, is the act of performing in public places and is generally made-up of live music sessions. No matter whether the performers are bands or solo acts, they bring their instruments and play them in the street. Busking is one of the most common promoting methods for indie musicians. In the past, indie musicians did not have enough money to ask for huge promotion, so having street performances was the most effective way to promote their songs. This method caught people’s attentions since it was unique for people who were more familiar with fixed performances at concerts. Many live videos of busking that were taken by people were uploaded onto social media and record high views, which proves that busking is a good promoting method. For example, a busking video of Yun DDan-DDan’s Walking the Winter that was uploaded on March 13th of 2018, had 750,000 views on Youtube according to the record on November 18th of 2020.
Changes in Indie Music
Indie Music Becoming Popularized
In the past, indie music had the perception that it was underground music since it was not that popular to the Korean public. As people have started to find more unique styles of music recently, however, they have begun listening to indie music, which brought popularity to indie music unlike in the past. In famous online music charts in Korea, diverse indie music began appearing at higher rankings. For instance, songs of indie musicians like Bolbbalgan4 and 10cm ranked in the annual charts, and it started to prove that indie music is not underground music anymore.
More Opportunities for Indie Musicians
Indie music became more popular through social media by the public who upload cover songs of indie musicians or live videos from busking. Also, a lot of them are participating in singing drama original sound tracks (OST) which usually go for famous singers. Since the upcoming generation is now focusing more on the live skills of singers, indie musicians can properly show their abilities through live media clip platforms, such as Dingo Live or 1theK. With these kinds of contents, indie musicians can be exposed to the public more easily getting more chances to appeal themselves.
A lot of indie music is loved by the public today. Unlike fancy idols or solo artists, indie musicians have their unique music styles which draw the attention of the public. Since there are a lot of easy-listening songs in indie music, indie musicians find it possible to have more opportunities to express their own abilities through music. So, why not go and listen to some indie music now?