Tuesday, August 15, 2006


One of the great things about studying the media (especially 'new media', as they are called) is the chance to see new uses for media develop over time. One new 'app' that I have experienced (vicariously, through one of my students) is a phenomenon called Indietorrents.

What is Indietorrents? Glad you asked. Indietorrents is a strangely functional (yet terribly rude) community of like-minded music lovers who have found a new way to engage in peer-to-peer file-sharing. This community uses bit-torrent software, which is a kind of peer-to-peer file transfer code. These bit-torrents are used to share full cds (usually) of music. Music is both uploaded (seeded) and downloaded (leeched).

What's totally fascinating here is the machismo that is involved in this. There is a maximum number of 10,000 members of indietorrents, making it a pretty exclusive group. As if they needed to make it more exclusive, membership is only extended to those who have been invited to join indietorrents by other members. That's impressive. Furthermore, once you are a member, it seems remarkably easy to be kicked out (instantly, and sometimes forever) due to a) failure to provide new music for other members, b) saying something stupid in the online chat interface that is part of indietorrents, c) not maintaining enough activity on an account, or d) any other reason that occurs to the sysop. The mood of this group strikes me as overwhelmingly male, educated, and pretentious. And, of course, that's fine. [note: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member]

Oh, and they come up with a relatively interesting way to protect themselves from record industry litigation. It seems that record labels (and artists? licensing companies?) can remove their artists from the indietorrents community. The question posed to the music industry here is: will indietorrents help or hinder them? I have no answer to this question (yet).

So, is this indietorrents thing interesting? I think so. I suppose what I find so interesting, after a few months of hearing about this, is how the community has survived through strict enforcement of a relatively elaborate (though clearly laid out) set of rules. It would be very much interesting to see what kinds of music becomes popular on indietorrents, and what flops entirely. Is this format supporting certain sounds/communities/regions/ideas more than others? And how does this shape relate to the structures set up by the indietorrents community? Inquiring minds want to know.

Also interesting is the idea of 'indie' to be found on indietorrents. It should strike most of you as familiar. As their FAQ states...

Many of you have wondered what the indie stands for? I must admit originally it was intended to imply indie as in the indie rock genre. That was way back in the beginning days of this tracker. Since then we have grown significantly and with that we have somewhat changed what we think the indie stands for. We think of indie as in the term independence. Independence from the big corporate record labels. Independence from the commercialization of our music. Independence from the corrupting metality of the corporate marketing assholes. Be it doom metal, indie pop, grindcore, world beat or experimental noise, keep that indpenendent spirit and you are what we call indie. Keep it off a major record label and your indie can be shared here.

This is about enough to make any good media researcher's bullshit detector go off loudly and visibly. The glib division of music into 'indie' and 'corporate,' the cloying presumption that there is a wide variety of music here ('doom metal...experimental noise') that probably hides a certain tendency (or two) in the music that actually is downloaded (as boring and pretentious as those people who say they listen to 'everything,' which is always a dodge), and the presumption that 'corporate' music actually does something bad to people are all familiar tropes.

But what is this "independence" described here? Of what are they independent? And in what manner might this independence matter to them, or to anyone else? This is a question facing indietorrents and just about everyone else who proclaims to be part of a 'diy' or 'independent' cultural formation. For those (like me) who believe that independence is indeed worth something, it is frustrating to see it spoken of in such a pretentious manner. Can we do any better than this?


Blogger a promise made said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous feedhead said...

I wish you has an acoount so I could bring down the bannation hammer.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous ehsucks said...


11:32 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

You OBVIOUSLY don't understand a damn thing about us. LURK MOAR.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indietorrent is what makes me ashamed to be an indie lover. Yes the typical indie attitude is to be extremely "above" everyone, and usually we have things to base our cockiness on, but c-mon, chill a little bit, sit down on your nice couch, and pop in the stars allbum, "Set yourself on fire" and try to be nicer to people, cuz they'll be nice to you.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

This whole forum here is absurd. Does the egotistic blogger (apparently a teacher of some kind?) realize the irony of his criticism of the "pretentious" community of a bit-torrent tracker.

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's kept "indie" because this keeps the site legal. The people on this site don't keep major label music off because they are pretentious, they do it to keep the site RIAA safe, and thus keep what happened to OINK the other day from happening to them.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...overwhelmingly male, educated, and pretentious."

Exactly. It's kind of sad. But they also define 'independent' as non RIAA backed record labels. So basically they WON'T be pulled down like oink just did 2 days ago.... I miss it already. No one will be sued by the independent record labels probably ever, because they just give the DMCA a big kick in the pants just like it should get.

Anyway, interesting read.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Independence from tact...

2:50 AM  
Blogger kelley said...

RIAA SAFE = our mods and operators won't go to jail. Our site won't go down because of a raid. And isn't it a bit pretentious to throw around an arbitrary word like indie on a BLOG? Or to assume that your opinion on a site with which you have relatively minimal experience is valid and should be shared with the world?

12:11 PM  
Anonymous ediface said...

i am certainly not defending indietorrents, but this blog is kind of redundant. indie music is congruent with elitism. whats new?

10:12 PM  
Blogger Tad said...

jackass. any "media researcher"? Talk about pretense. And yes, corporate culture does bad things to you- it makes you fucking stupid. Anything that appeals to the Lowest common denominator by definition does. You are a case in point, fucktard.

3:52 AM  
Anonymous Eulampy Moler-Kenchinsky said...

Well, all that PRAVDA KID said above looks to be truth as more and more indietorrent users write comments here. Come on guys, wave your cocks more here also, because it is seems to be the reason you're on torrents, to wave cocks and ban hammers, okay. Makes me sick of how miserable you feel. Sorry.

3:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lame ass. why the fuck do you have a pic of jack black? jack black sucks donkey shit

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think somebody didn't get to hang out with the cool kids in college.

9:39 AM  

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