Britain is widely considered the cradle of independent music culture. Bands like Radiohead and Belle and Sebastian, which epitomize indie music's sounds and attitudes, have spawned worldwide fanbases. This in-depth study of the British independent music scene explores how the behavior of fans, artists, and music industry professionals produce a community with a specific aesthetic based on moral values. Author Wendy Fonarow, a scholar with years of experience in the various sectors of the indie music scene, examines the indie music "gig" as a ritual in which all participants are actively involved. This ritual allows participants to play with cultural norms regarding appropriate behavior, especially in the domains of sex and creativity. Her investigation uncovers the motivations of audience members when they first enter the community and how their positions change over time so that the gig functions for most members as a rite of passage. Empire of Dirt sheds new light on music, gender roles, emotion, subjectivity, embodiment, and authenticity.
Wendy Fonarow is a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California Los Angeles. She has worked for music labels including Domino, Reprise, and MCA, and is an active participant in the indie music community.
Acknowledgments; Introduction; Beginnings; Theoretical Frame: From Observation to Communication; Active Bodies; The Audience and Subjectivity; Music as Activity; Subjectivity in Action; Turn On the Bright Lights6; Methodology; From Plus One to A Your Itinerary; Conclusion; What Is "Indie"?; Indie... What's at Stake?; Indie as a Mode of Distribution: An Industrial Definition; Indie as a Genre; Indie as an Ethos; Indie as Pathetic; Indie as a Mode of Aesthetic Judgement; The Mainstream Is a Centralized Hierarchy; Dance Is Not the Way the; Future Is Meant to Feel; Indie: What Is It?; The Zones of Participation; The Event; Zone One; The Pit; The Front; Zone One; Spectatorship: The Initiates; The Psychosomatics of Zone One; Zone Two; The Mode of Comportment of Zone Two; Comportment Features That Vary over Space; Gigs as Social Life; The Process of Change from Zone One to Zone Two; The Heterogeneous Audience; A Move toward the Exit; Conclusion; Zone Three and the Music Industry; The Activities of Zone Three; The Liggers; The Guest List; Routine 1: Example of Professional Strategy; Routine 2: Example of Personable Strategy; Routine 3: Code Switch from Professional to Personable; Passes; Privileged Spectatorship; Conclusion; The Participant Structure and the Metaphysics of Spectatorship; Proximity, Affiliation, and Consensus Building; Verticality and Asymmetry; Contesting Spectorial Positions: Closeness and Distance; Age; The Metaphysics of Participation; African Expression in a Protestant World; The Nature of the; Moral Threat; A Ritual of Transformation; Conclusion; Performance, Authenticity, and Emotion; Indie's Version of Authenticity; Indie's Conventions of Being in Performance; Emotion and the Decay of Emotion; Sex and the Ritual Practitioners; Gendered Spectatorship; The Groupie as Sexual Predator; Indie Versus Mainstream: Groupie Troublesomeness; Offstage Behavior Mirrors Onstage Spectacle; Come Together; Sing for the Moment; The Tricksters; Indie Coyotes and Foxes; Afterword: My Music Is Your Dirt; Appendix 1. NME's Top 100 Albums of All Time; Appendix 2. NME's Top 50 Albums of the 1980s; Appendix 3. Select Magazine Survey, 1994; Notes; References; Index.