My Bloody Valentine's Website Crash Shows What it Means to Be Indie in 2013
My Bloody Valentine released a new album over the weekend, and by all accounts it's very good. There are a lot of thick, quavering guitars on it, you can't really hear the vocals, and nothing goes much like you expect it to, which is to say that if you enjoy My Bloody Valentine, you'll enjoy m b v. But on release day, a lot of fans who'd already waited 22 years for the follow-up to Loveless were stuck whiling away another few hours without it--because demand had crashed the band's website.
Between 1991 and 2013, working musicians--like every other set of entrepreneurs--have gained countless new ways to get their music in front of the people who care about it. But they've also found themselves with a lot of new jobs. This is the first My Bloody Valentine album in which Kevin Shields has also had to micromanage a webmaster.
This phenomenon isn't limited to musicians at all, but they're an interesting example because they started taking on these new jobs for themselves even before the internet became relevant. Indie rock turned people self-selected for their ability to play the guitar into marketers, and CD-manufacturers, and accountants, and contract lawyers. The story of indie rock is hugely dependent on some of those jacks-of-all-trades not being very good at some of those trades.
Now there are more of them. The jobs major labels are set up to do are growing more numerous every day, but every day more bands and listeners are leaving major labels anyway. The industry's increasingly built around it: If you take a look around your favorite small-to-medium-sized band's website you'll find logos and legal print for companies like Ning and Bombplates--or even just WordPress--that offer turnkey websites for getting news to fans, selling merchandise, listing tours, et cetera.
My Bloody Valentine wasn't going this alone, either--they use a company called Sunshine HQ to design the website and fulfill orders. So what happened? What did My Bloody Valentine do right, and what errors will the next group of impossibly reclusive rock heroes have to learn from?