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No Pop – A musical battle cry

It’s been just over a year since music blogger / reviewer Lonely Vagabond wrote a manifesto titled ‘Declaration of a New Alternative‘. It’s far too important to be forgotten, so I felt now was the perfect time to revisit the concept as a battle cry to change the current musical landscape in 2016 and beyond.

In the manifesto, Lonely Vagabond coined the term ‘No Pop’ and defined it as “No Pop (noun) – short for Not Popular. Meaning anti-commercial, non-chart-friendly, also inferring there is no expiration date on music nor is it limited by geographic or regional boundaries.”  The concept / ideology is quite simple – support artists that aren’t products of the ‘traditional’ music industry and that haven’t been made a commodity by big corporations, and refocus on artists and bands that are truly being creative and pushing artistic boundaries.

To put it in perspective within the Toronto music scene (which is my local music scene), there are ‘big acts’ from the city and surrounding areas like Drake, The Wknd and Justin Bieber. They’re all products of the big labels whose sole intent is to chart singles and albums with the singular goal of making profits. I’m not suggesting profit is bad…it just shouldn’t be the major driving force behind creating music because when it is, the creativity always suffers a quick death. To follow the No Pop concept, we should refocus our sights from the acts produced by the large, commercial record labels to indie labels like Hand Drawn Dracula and Buzz Records, and organizations like Wavelength, who push out acts like Beliefs, Fresh Snow, HSY, Greys, Dilly Dally, Metz, Doomsquad, Traitrs, etc.

Justin Bieber Purpose coverLonely Vagabond’s manifesto stated this ideology clearly, “Basically it’s rooted in the attitude that people should search for the music that moves them, away from the corporate machine and towards artists who haven’t lost their capacity to be creative, experimental or boundary-pushing.” In other words, we need to support and listen to artists and bands that are truly creative and pumping out music that isn’t tainted by the influence of big business. And, this influence is massive. Take Justin Bieber for example; his latest album ‘Purpose’ had 24 producers for 13 tracks. Nothing kills a good musical vibe faster than businesspeople, lawyers and corporate sponsors crushing the life out of it by manipulating direction and demanding specific sales volumes.

Dilly Dally sore coverIn contrast, Dilly Dally’s latest album ‘Sore’ had 2 producers – Josh Korody and Leon Taheny – and it was one of the standout records from last year. A fresh sound that looks into the past and twists it to something new and modern. It was released by Buzz Records who definitely weren’t pushing the band to meet chart-friendly sales thresholds. This is just one example of the type of indie artist that represents the No Pop movement.

You have the two sides of the coin – the big industry creating music to chart and indie artists creating something real and genuine for the love of music. The big business uses a formulaic method of creating hits, generating maximum revenue and increasing the chance of a high chart position. The artists end up being further distanced from their creativity as more people become involved in the process of completing an album. It’s a ‘too many cooks’ situation.

Live Music TonightIf you want to join the No-Pop movement, you aren’t limited to showing your support for your local scene by buying your local artists’ music. You can also support them by following them on social media (yep, like them on Facebook or Instagram, or follow and retweet them on Twitter), telling your friends about them, checking them out live or buying their merch. It’s not just monetary support – this is a movement and it needs to be in the minds of all music fans.

This is not a Toronto-centric concept. It applies to every city worldwide – wherever people are creating music outside the mainstream. We need to band together to embrace our local independent scenes and support them rather than pumping more money into the corporate machine.

Lonely Vagabond’s manifesto also points you to support the local bands in your area, and he wants us not tobforget about artists from the past. He wrote, “This is what No Pop is all about, the general aim is to focus on (a) regional artists and bands, and (b) artists who remain on the periphery of the mainstream, and (c) the archives of music that is readily available.”

No-Pop isn’t just about supporting current non-mainstream music, but it’s about breaking out older recordings. Many old titles are now being re-released on vinyl and as digital downloads, and these should not be forgotten. Everything current is grounded in the past and all previous movements like punk, ska, glam, shoegaze, etc. all had roots in a local indie scene of the time.

Now, it’s up to us to get behind something real…something creative…something off the mainstream. Get out there and support your local indie music and break out some old classics. Let’s all get out and believe / yell our new musical battle cry – No-Pop!