By Matt Taylor
It was the end of an era as early last month, beacon of Taiwanese independent music iNDIEVOX announced that from the end of August, it would be focusing solely on its role as a ticket provider, and that its music store and download service would cease to exist.
Since its founding in 2008 by Po-chang Wu 吳柏蒼 (who is also the lead singer of psychedelic Taiwanese rock band ECHO), the website quickly gained a reputation for its unique perspective on independent music and the way it could be promoted to an audience in Taiwan and beyond, and was a pioneer in how it distributed digital music.
iNDEVOX powered indie musicians, labels, live venues and festivals to come together in a digital space, and collaborate to assist in the promotion and accessibility of Taiwanese indie music, and worked to bring independent music from the underground into the centre of popular culture. In a world where streaming giants such as KKBox, Spotify and Apple Music have monopolized the market and come under intense scrutiny for their method of sharing profits with artists and labels, iNDIEVOX was not only an early entrant, but was much fairer, with artists and independent labels not only having the ability to create their own online store, but also have complete control over the price point, manage personal information, and check sales and reception of music in real time - the latter being a pioneering concept in the late 00’s.
With more than 5000 musicians/labels/event using the site to connect with audiences, A unique visitor base often exceeding 100,000 on a weekly basis (60% of these being between 18-34 years old), over 350,000 members which consist of 143 names from labels, 6,000 artists and 121 event organizers, iNDIEVOX was the largest digital downloads and tickets marketplace of indie music in Taiwan.
There are several factors which have resulted in this unfortunate decision. As far back as 2015, Wu was highlighting the difficulties faced by iNDIEVOX, even saying then that a greater focus on commerce was likely in iNDIEVOX’s future. The difficulty in making money from a streaming service was only enhanced as this method of music consumption gained popularity, and industry heavyweights such as KKBox and Spotify constrained the space of iNDIEVOX. Alongside this, some critics have felt that in recent years the independent music scene in Taiwan has reached a saturation point, which in turn has led to a greater disinterest in hunting for new music, which has likely had a significant impact on iNDIEVOX.
From the very beginning, the mission statement of iNDIEVOX was to both instil a passion for indie music and create a supportive environment within which it could grow. From the flourishing success of Taiwanese indie music both domestically and overseas, it’s safe to say iNDIEVOX was successful in this mission, and that the importance of independent music in Taiwan’s music scene is a direct legacy of iNDIEVOX. The music scene will be poorer for its absence.