Resistance as Life or Business: The Dynamic Tension and Forces Within Taiwan’s Indie Music Scene

TitleResistance as Life or Business: The Dynamic Tension and Forces Within Taiwan’s Indie Music Scene
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Jian, M.
Affiliation (1st Author)National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan
Section or WGPopular Culture Working Group
DateFri 28 June
Slot CodePOPF4a
Slot Code (Keyword)POPF4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleSoundscapes Replayed
Submission ID6612

Despite the downfall of the mainstream music industry itself, popular underground indie music has formed a kind of creative destruction in Taiwan. They have penetrated into the music taste and genre that was previously dominated by major labels, and are able to create a kind of subculture-lifestyle business which accompanies the rebellious and cool music. In the context of western countries, popular music from the indie labels had salvaged the mainstream music industry with their vigorously creative works in the 1990s. They were referred to as “entrepreneurial independents”, or were theorized as “creative capitalism” (Hesmondhalgh, 1999; Moore, 2010). Within the context of the post-Fordism era, the “creative capitalism” profits from creativity and authenticity, and has replaced “corporate capitalism”, which had been predominant during the past music industry era. This paper intends to argue further that the rise of the indie music economy, which mainly sells subculture lifestyles, originated from the dynamic and contradictory tension between two forces of “the entrepreneurial pragmatism” and the resistant “DIY ethos”. In Taiwan, the sales of mainstream music were hit hard by the digitalization of music formats in the late 1990s. However, in the frenzy of developing cultural and creative industries, the underground music scenes stood out as a counterforce of the crisis and have experienced a surge in popularity during the last few years. On the one hand, live house, which originated from the previous underground culture, now stands as the flagship in Taiwan’s cultural economy. Owners and managers of the entrepreneurial live houses are free from the control of major labels, and have become the leading role models in the live performance scene and festival music economy. On the other hand, there’s a group of young and hardcore punk musicians, who don’t buy into the entrepreneurial capitalism logic at all. They operate their own DIY labels within the hardcore and punk music communities. They promote the concept of community, cooperation and DIY practices which are against all business rules. This paper examines the dynamic tension between these two forces that have emerged from Taiwan’s indie music scenes during the last decade. The entrepreneurial independents are inclined to be professionalized, capitalized and commercialized. While the DIY punk musicians and labels have consistently resisted any control from the corporations. The study has taken the approach of ethnography of the music scene, and is presented with two respectively representative cases. The Wall, a leading live house group and music festival organization in Taiwan, and TOUMING MAGAZINE, a punk band in the hardcore scene who originated from Taipei. This paper argues that there is a contradictory tension between the two forces. The entrepreneurs must be careful not to be too commercialized, so as to lose the “rebellion and coolness” that differentiates them from the mainstream music industry. While the bands/musicians who encompass the DIY spirits, though being autonomous and famous in their indie microcosm, are still living their lives under extremely unstable financial conditions.

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