Category: About the Indie Handbook


As I said (or at least implied) a few days ago, I have decided to make a serious effort to revive and revitalize The Indie Handbook — an endeavor which, I know from experience, requires at least 10 hours a week to maintain. It’s time I am happy to invest because I enjoy it, but also because I believe the world deserves accessible, literate, historically-minded music journalism. But a lot has changed in the years since I last posted regularly here. For one thing, there’s finally a mechanism for independent writers like me to be paid for their work without the use of annoying, obnoxious pop-up ads or overpriced T-shirts. That’s why I have decided to join Patreon.

Don’t worry, everything on this website will remain free and I will continue to post the same kind of content I did before as well as a few other new kinds of features I am considering. Instead, Patreon supporters will be given access to some additional, “behind the curtain” style content. Since Patreon is a way for readers to directly support content creators like me, I figured it was only fair to directly ask readers what sort of rewards and price points they think sound appealing and reasonable. So, here are a few ideas I’ve had. Feel free to suggest others. In fact PLEASE suggest them.

Peak Into My Mailbox ($1/month) – I get a lot of news and album press releases in my inbox every week that I never cover because there simply isn’t time. I’ll give you a weekly rundown of what’s in my inbox. Maybe something will catch your eye, even if it didn’t catch mine.

Musical Missives ($3-4/month) – So, I’ve given you the list of what else is out there. Here, I’ll provide brief (tweet length) reviews of all of them. This can reach as many as 10-15 releases a week. Now maybe you see why this business gets overwhelming at times.

Bargain Bin Buying Guide ($7/month) – Everyone knows I love the dollar bins. At least once a month (but probably twice) you’ll get a bonus article about a great but often overlooked record that can usually be had for a dollar or two.

A Window On My Record Collection ($10/month) – An occasional (probably monthly) video post taking a look at one of my favorites from my personal collection. Not unlike the “bargain bin” posts but a little more pricey, a little more unusual, and I might even try to look pretty for it.

Monthly Q&A ($15/month) – Sure, we can talk about music, but I know a lot of other stuff, too. Old movies. Soccer. Ok, well, I know those two things, so we can talk about them if you want to. A lot of people do these. I don’t know why people pay $15 to talk to a stranger, but if you guys want to, I’m here for you.

Crate Diggin‘ ($30/month) – Are you coming to Nashville? Let’s go record shopping together. We’ll meet up at one of my favorite local record stores and dig for a while. Maybe you’ll find something you think I absolutely need to hear. Maybe I’ll find something I think you’ll love. You never know.

Crate Diggin’ On Demand ($100/month for a minimum of 6 months) – Like the other one, but I’ll come to you (in the continental US, that is). Travel costs money, though. Hence the high price tag and minimum commitment. Again, I’m not sure why you’d pay $600 to go shopping with me, but hey, some people are like that.

I’d love to do a one-time contribution thing (around $30) where I would buy a record for you that I’ll think you’ll love and send it to you. I’m not sure if that is a violation of Patreon’s “no giving away other people’s work without their permission” rule. I should really look into that.

Is there anything else you guys think would be good? I’m definitely open to suggestions here.

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A New (old) Direction

“Most rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.”

That’s what Frank Zappa told the Toronto Star in 1977. I’m not going to go so far as to say that Zappa’s assessment of music journalism is 100% accurate – sure, there are journalists (yes, even bloggers) who write beautifully, I’ve certainly interviewed a few musicians who are both brilliant and articulate, and I’ve interacted with enough of my readers online and in person to know that they’re certainly not idiots either – but still, after a several years in and around this business, I have to say, there’s a grain of truth in what Zappa said. Maybe a few grains…

Most of us, I think, come to this business out of a place of relative purity. We love music and we want to share it. But there are certain pitfalls that go hand-in-hand with an industry where everyone knows that a few kind words from one person or another can result in a few extra dollars in another’s pocket. A constant diet of flattery and free stuff is enough to feed any ego, and when it begins to fill your inbox, it’s hard not to develop a taste for it.

When it began, The Indie Handbook, was as much a reaction against Before-It-Was-Cool-ism as it was a pursuit of anything new and exciting. Our initial concept for this project, in fact, was born out of satire. Think about it. The very idea of an Indie Handbook—a how-to guide to being independent—is utterly ridiculous.

I know I say these things now at the risk of alienating some of our longtime readers. But I don’t want any of you to feel as if you’ve been duped. You haven’t been. The content here has remained pure even if my motives for posting some of it haven’t always been. I can say with complete confidence that I have never shared a band on The Indie Handbook that I did not genuinely like and, if you asked her, I imagine Kristin would echo that. I think the same can be said for Kate, and Dan, and Kathy, and Melissa, and any other guest poster whom I’ve forgotten at the moment.

Over the years, we put a lot of time and effort into the posts that appeared here. I would much rather spend several hours editing a single paragraph until the rhythm and pacing of each sentence is exactly the way I want it (something I’ve done dozens of times) than copy and paste a press release (yes, it happens—it happens a lot). But your value in this business is predicated on getting there first, not getting there elegantly. No one cares what you say or how you say it as long as you say it before anyone else. And that’s never been for me. I’m more likely to give you 800 words on a two-song single than three sentences and an mp3. I suppose, in that sense, The Indie Handbook is more a product of the 18th century than our present one and, in a way, it is.

Not everyone knows this, but Kristin and I met in college where we were both music history majors. And in the years The Indie Handbook has been languishing since it was a “several posts a week” blog, that is what I have missed the most. Rock and roll is an oral tradition. Jazz, country, pop, the blues, they are too. They are not codified. They are passed down from one generation to the next. More of us in the music media need to think of ourselves as historians first. We need to put less emphasis on wielding our power and opinions like a cudgel and focus more on the stories we are recording and sharing. Forty years from now, no one is going to care how you or I felt about a mediocre record riding the chillwave boom of 2009, but they might want to know about the time Will Oldham and Angel Olsen turned up in Columbus at midnight, unannounced, to cover an obscure Kevin Coyne record under an assumed name.

Every day, we are making history. It’s usually boring, but it’s history. And that’s where I want to shift my focus. I will still have opinions and I will share them. New music will come along that I love, I will share that too. But, from now on, I am a historian first.

Hi everyone.  In lieu of our brand new Facebook page and the next step in the life of The Indie Handbook, we’d like to a) invite everyone to become fans and b) give in and let you know what we’re all about.  For months you’ve been wondering; your answers are here.

Below you’ll find individual statements from Eric and Kristin, as well as a general statement regarding the purpose of The Indie Handbook (and why they aren’t pretentious bastards for calling it such).  As always, if you have any suggestions, questions, or comments, you can email E & K at the.indie.handbook@gmail.com.  If you have any criticisms, please make the ATTN to Eric, as Kristin doesn’t take criticism well and Eric gives wittier comebacks.

eric From Eric:

A few months ago, I took a quiz I found in an issue of Psychology Today (it was an issue about the psychology of taste) and accordingly, the boffins at PT labeled me a “trendsetter”. Apparently, this means that I enjoy the hunt for new talent and delight in the joy of a new discovery. This much is true. What is not true is that I do this out of some need to be cool. (My coolness is inherent, not dependent upon my discovery of “the next big thing”.)

In fact, many of the things I like are not generally looked upon with any sort of wonderment by the indie intelligentsia. I think the Cardigans’ First Band on the Moon is one of the most brilliant albums ever recorded (and someday I will tell you why). I don’t care that Envy & Other Sins won their record deal on a television show. I think Fleet Foxes are overrated (good, but overrated). And I infinitely prefer British twee and Scandinavian pop over Pacific Northwest navel-gazing.

Do I listen to a lot of bands you’ve never heard of? Yes. But that’s just where the MySpace breadcrumb trail has led me. And if you keep an eye on this blog, I promise, you will know about them as soon as I do (well…almost…).

kristinFrom Kristin:

After much toiling over how to get my point across with the perfect storm of sincerity, snarkiness, and sophistication, I have decided that the best way is by making a list:

1.  Sometimes my friends take credit for making me indie.  The truth is that I have always been all about good music.  I will always know all the lyrics to Don McLean’s “American Pie,” sing Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia” at the top of my lungs, and idolize David Bowie.  At the same time, Belle & Sebastian’s The Boy with the Arab Strap will always be one of my favorite albums of all time.

2. Art, to me, is about connection.  In the poetry of every musical element combined, you’ll find people who get it.  You’ll come to a greater depth of understanding of yourself and the world around you.  I say this over and over again in my reviews.  Humans need connection desperately, but we can only find so much of it on top-40 radio.  There is so much more that is so much better!

3.  Speaking of which, there is probably more that is better playing a show this weekend in your hometown.  There is also definitely more that is better playing a show halfway across the globe.  Thanks to the internet, all of these are readily available for your listening!  And I want to help you find them!

4.  I don’t care if you heard them first. xx.

From Both Of Us!

The purpose of the Indie Handbook is a simple one: sharing good music. To us, music is not the currency of coolness. It is not something to be collected, hoarded, and lorded over people like drinking water in the midst of nuclear fallout. It is something to be celebrated and shared, like drinking water in the midst of nuclear fallout.

It is true that people frequently ask us what we are listening to. For a long time, the majority of communication between the two of us was an ebb and flow of band recommendations. This can grow redundant very quickly, and when your tastes change (or when your favorites list multiplies) at the rate ours do, it becomes nearly impossible to keep track of what you’ve shared with whom. This is much simpler.

So this, the Indie Handbook and everything it encompasses, boils down to one simple concept: we like good music, and while good music is meant to be heard, finding it often takes more than turning on your radio.  We’ll do the work for you.  This blog gets updated frequently (it’s a miracle we keep it to five or so posts a week, really) because there is so much out there to love, as long as you are willing to give it a chance. And that is all we ask of you. Listen. Explore. But above all else, decide for yourself what is cool, because that is what it means to be “indie” and that is why we are The Indie Handbook.

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