WAS EASY, IT WAS CHEAP, SO WHAT? 173
labels, were precluded from inclusion in this indie chart, and such collaborationwith a perceived enemy was strongly denigrated by upholders of what becameknown as the 'indie ethic'.At some point during the late 1980s to early 1990s indie ceased to be an abbre-viation of the word independent, and thus ceased to denote a significant distinc-tion from the major labels.^ Instead, indie has become widely understood to be adescription of
musical style. The purpose of this article, therefore, is threefold:firstly, to examine the development of the indie seaor in the late 1970s and early
attemptingto think beyond certain
interpretations whichhave probably been overused in scholarly examinations of punk and indie music;secondly, to examine carefully the period in which indie came to be understood asa style of music rather than as an economic
and thirdly, toconsider certain overtly political aspirations which punk and indie groups appearto have been trying to achieve by utilizing the DIY principle, and how these effortsare affected by the technological developments of the twenty-first century.
The development of DIY independent labels
'It was easy, it was cheap, go and do it!' proclaimed the Desperate Bicycles atthe conclusion of their 1977 'Smokescreen'/'Handlebars' single. Their follow-up7", 'The Medium Was Tedium', issued later that year, took the same slogan andexpanded it into a whole song: 'if you can understand', the singer instructs, 'goand form a band!' The flipside, 'Don't Back The Front', hammers home much thesame message: 'cut it, press it, distribute it, xerox music's here at last!' murmurs aslightly tense sounding singer.The Desperate Bicycles have been rightly perceived as critical players in thedevelopment of the DIY indie scene (Laing 1985; Rosen 1997; Wendel 2008).
3. It is natural enough that, as the 1980s progressed, the kind of bands which appeared inthe indie chart became known as 'alternative', for here was a 'totally separate
(as Morrisseyonce described the realm in which his archetypal indie band the Smiths existed) in which a recordcould be regarded as a roaring success by achieving sales
in the eyes of the majors, wouldon the contrary make it a
Thus Rough Trade reportedly struggled to meet the demand fromsales of around 20,000 for a single like the Television Personalities'
Where's Bill Grundy Now?
EP,on the one
whilst Walter Yetnikoff, as head of
once remarked that'if an artist can onlysell 100,000 records, then this company is not interested in pursuing that artisf. on the other hand(Young 2006:60; Gronow and Saunio 1998:143). The alternative independent scene was retailingto a fraction of the available market,
but it is worth noting that the yardstick-sales-wasthe same in both the indie chart and its mainstream correlate. Since major label bands such asThe Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Jesus and Mary Chain were known as 'alternative'during the 1980s and onwards, the present essay will avoid this descriptor and focus instead onthe term indie
in the early years of its coinage at least, was used to indicate a more specific'institutional'separateness (Hesmondhaigh 1999).® Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009.