So, it's Saturday night and you are playing another show in front of an empty dive bar. You can't figure out why your Linkin Park tribute band hasn't become more successful. You've spent hours working on your bands MySpace page, you've worked hard to get your original stuff played on the local alt-rock radio station, and still nobody is showing up to your gigs.
It just doesn't make sense.
Meanwhile, you're seeing bands you've never heard of, like Arcade Fire, getting nominated for Grammy's and bands like Vampire Weekend shooting to the top of charts.
The reality is times are a changing and in order to be successful in the music world these days you have to change along with them. Alternative rock is out, nu-metal is dead, and indie rock is in. But fear not, because becoming the next Arcade Fire is not nearly as complicated as one might think. In fact, you too, can become the next indie buzz band in 10 easy to follow steps.
1. Animal band name
The first step in becoming an indie buzz band is picking an appropriate name. You can't be an indie buzz band with a name like Revenge of the Flaming Skulls or Sludge Basement. Your band name needs to grab hipsters immediately by screaming the words indie rock in their face. There are a couple of school of thoughts as far as indie rock names but the tried and true method is the animal band name. Just pick an a random word and a random animal and put them together and you got your band name.
Worked for: Wolf Parade, Band of Horses, Deerhunter, Dr. Dog
2. Band diversification
Nothing says indie rock like having a woman in your band. It says that unlike traditional rockers you are not just interested in sex, drugs and rock and roll. It also conveys the idea that you are the traditional sensitive indie type who likes poetry and Sofia Coppala movies.
Worked for: Arcade Fire, The xx, Best Coast, Beach House
Sure, you can look like a indie rock band and even sound like an indie rock band but no self-respecting indie rock band has at least one member of its group without a beard. And we're not talking about some wimpy super thin Backstreet Boy-type beard. We're talking a full on Grizzly Adams type beard here. The bigger and bushier the better.
Worked for: Megafaun, Les Savy Fav, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes
4. Play SxSW
Before you can go on to play more commercially successful festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza you've got to perform at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. If you perform here it is instant indie cred. Once you perform here you are almost guaranteed to get picked up by an indie record label like 4AD or Jagjaguwar which will only boost your indie cred even more.
Worked for: Every indie band ever.
5. Give away your mp3 on Gorilla vs. Bear
Congratulations, you got the right band name, you've got the look, and now thanks to your much buzzed about performance at SxSW you've got a record label. You're half way there. Now that you've got down the basics it's time to conquer the blogosphere which is 50% of becoming an indie buzz band. There are lots of indie music blogs out there but none is more beloved and has broken more indie buzz band than Gorilla vs. Bear. Having them post one of your mp3's is almost guaranteed to get hipsters and music nerds talking about you as if they've been listening to your stuff before you got well known.
Worked for: White Denim, Twin Shadow, Neon Indian, Kurt Vile
6. Get Mentioned on Hipster Runoff
Hipster Runoff is quite honestly the best form of social satire since Saturday Night Live, but way funnier. And while the site is meant to be a joke and satire it's still read by millions of hipsters everyday and is key source in discovering new bands.
Worked for: Crystal Castles, Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Salem
7. Have one of your songs on the soundtrack to a Michael Cera movie
There isn't an actor in Hollywood at the moment who is more closely associated with indie rock then Michael Cera. Every movie in which he plays the lovable and awkward underdog that everyone loves to root for (every movie he is in) features an indie-rock centric soundtrack. But his appeal extends beyond just your normal music lover, he also gets you that mainstream exposure as well.
Worked for: Bishop Allen, We Are Scientists, Devandra Banhart, Cat Power
8. Have Diplo remix one of your songs
Having Diplo remix one of your songs is just about as close as you can get to the "indie buzz band seal of approval." It means that not only are hipsters and music snobs taking notice of your music, but hip music producers are too.
Worked for: Santogold, Bloc Party, Passion Pit, The Streets
Not that long ago having one of your songs play in the background of an iPod commercial equaled instant success. Now, though, this isn't just limited to iPod commercials. Now, it also includes fancy clothes companies like Tommy Hilfiger and car companies like Volkswagen. Just be careful not to have your song featured in something totally uncool like WalMart or you could spark a backlash with your core audience.
Worked for: Joanna Newsom, Feist, Vampire Weekend, Phoenix
10. Good review from Pitchfork
Okay, in all honesty, if you're in a big hurry to become the next big indie buzz band you can forget the previous 9 steps and skip ahead to this one. In the indie-rock community, scoring a good review from Pitchfork can either make or break your album. While music snobs around the world like to claim that they pay little attention to the scores Pitchfork dishes out, they're full of shit. In reality, everyone pays attention to the score your album gets and if it's a good one you can pretty much bet that the album will propel you to becoming the next indie buzz band.
Worked for: Girls, The Walkmen, Wavves, Sleigh Bells