August 28, 2009

bankrupt on selling

You're looking at a promo shot for Nike's new Sup Pop sneakers: the perfect shoe for indie kids and alt-rock drop-outs. Along with the logo of a shattering disc (discussed briefly in my last post) that Pitchfork has been using to encapsulate the evolution of popular music during the first decade of the 2000s, I think this Nike ad pretty much sums up the rest: the all too common passage of popular indie labels (and their bands) through a sort of corporate baptism and on to mass acceptance. The unprecedented breakthroughs of bands like Modest Mouse, The Shins, Death Cab for Cutie and the Arcade Fire helped carve out an indie niche that major labels have recognized as one of the most profitable (i.e. one of the few growing) domains in popular music. Again and again, we've had our anti-corporate indie ideals smashed by car ads (Modest Mouse), beer promos (the Dodos) and major motion picture soundtracks (let's just call it "the Juno factor"). But it would be ludicris to associate this trend of cooperation with this decade alone. The Sub Pop sneakers remind us that this is nothing new. No strangers to corporate partnership, Sonic Youth have recently been turning tricks for Starbucks, while M. I. A. and members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have peddled footwear for Converse and Adidas. Bands and brands have always been difficult to disambiguate and the past decade brought lo-fi rebellion home at a scale few could have predicted.


  1. I think it should sooner be called the "Garden State" factor.

    When was the last time you saw a movie poster that advertised the film's corresponding "killer soundtrack"?

    This shoe surprises me, but not entirely. I can't wait for the Arts & Crafts messenger bag.

  2. I take your point. I was trying to forget Garden State ever existed. Then again, Juno's entire aesthetic was more self-consciously "indie." And it won an Oscar.