Shine a Light: Surveying Locality, Independence, and Digitization in Ottawa’s Independent Rock Scene

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Audette-Longo, Michael Robert




This dissertation examines the articulation and reconfiguration of locality in Ottawa's independent (indie) rock scene. It argues that styles of producing and relating to indie music that have been traditionally embedded in local scenic activity and practices of “do it yourself” (DIY) have been translated into more ubiquitous, quotidian, and valuable metadata and labour that organizes and powers the operations of disparate digital media sites, including digital music services like Bandcamp, CBC Radio 3, and Wyrd Distro. This argument is developed through closer analyses of the following case studies: the entrepreneurial strategies and musical focuses of Ottawa-based independent record labels Kelp and Bruised Tongue Records; scene-bound media like zines, blogs, music video and campus/community radio; the re-articulation of local regions as metadata that organize the search and retrieval functionalities of the digital music streaming services CBC Radio 3 and Bandcamp (a particular iteration of local regions I dub the “indexi-local”); and the concurrent incorporation of DIY labour and reconfiguration of the business of independent music evident in the digital music retailers Bandcamp and Wyrd Distro. This project contends that in the midst of digitization, the media sites, entrepreneurial strategies, and subcultural practices traditionally folded into the production of independence in local indie music scenes persist. This not only nuances narratives of upheaval advanced about digital media technologies, but also challenges narratives of decline and compromise recurrently articulated to the field of independent music. Contra academic and popular discourse that valorizes independent music for its ability to circulate outside of the “mainstream” musical, media, and cultural industries, this dissertation contends that independent music is entangled within these industries. Moreover, the persistence of local music scenes across the sites examined in this dissertation signals the continued value, power, and allure of independent music’s activities, subcultural commodities, and grassroots media sites to both scene participants and digital music services alike.






Carleton University

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Cultural Mediations

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Theses and Dissertations

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