Hipster Runoff Is For Sale; Long Live Hipster Runoff?
The website helped define the rise of alt bros, chillwave and 'hipsters'. It will be missed. Sort of.
Speaking to Gawker Media back in 2011, Hipster Runoff founder ‘Carles’ offered the following take on his indie music blog: “If I could have sold out, I would have, but that opportunity never came…”
Fast-forward four years and the website that helped define the rise of alt bros, chillwave, hipsters, and the inappropriate use of ‘scare quotes’ is up for auction to the highest bidder.
At the time of writing it’s sitting at $11,000 and has yet to reach its reserve.
The move to sell represents an inglorious — although perhaps inevitable — end to an ‘indie music’ blog in a post #Tay4Hottest1oo world. Those old battle lines have been erased, and riffing on the commercialisation of indie music is no longer a viable business model. Or to borrow a song title from The Smiths (#sorry), “That joke isn’t funny anymore.”
And there’s the rub, so to speak. Ostensibly a blog showcasing the burgeoning indie music scene that swirled around Animal Collective and their ilk, the bands and the MP3s posted on Hipster Runoff were merely jumping off points for meta essays highlighting the tension between hipster staples such authenticity and relevance, in a scene that was rapidly getting swallowed up by multinational corporations.
HRO began as a springboard for these conversations, but its rising popularity placed the site in the uncomfortable position of bitching about the appropriation of indie culture, while seeing its own revenues and popularity rise alongside it – via #HellaDollaz from American Apparel banner ads.
Thinking Deeply About Shallow Shit
At the centre of all this was the mysterious Carles – a sort of vague, abstract persona that may or may not have actually been author Tao Lin, who used a mix of detached irony, satire, and crude appropriations of ‘valley girl’ terms to deconstruct the indie scene.
His particular brand of bullshit came to a head in a rambling 2009 article titled ‘Animal Collective is a Band Created By/For/On the Internet‘. Drenched in Adderall-assisted OCD, it outlined the symbiotic relationships between bands and the music blogs that helped propel them from obscurity.
“Now that they [the band] have ‘made it’, webzines/blogs/pitchforks can pat themselves on the back because this is our child. We raised them. We pulled them from the womb of the obscurity, raised them, fed them, nourished them, created them, loved them, used them, experienced them, grown with them, and now they have grown to have an alledged impact on modern society.”
Carles and HRO may have been maddening to read at times, but there was a deranged genius to the content. As Rob Trump wrote in a 2012 essay for Splitsider.com, “Reading it was like pulling back the curtain on alternative culture, only to discover that the guy calling all the shots was just as cynical and profit-driven as everyone else.”
Hipster Of The Decade
As the web traffic spiked, Carles was able to quit his “job that I hate” that doesn’t really “allow me to express myself”, and focus on the site full-time.
The blog expanded from its original schedule of 2-3 posts a week to incorporate several new sections (including the tabloid friendly ‘Mainstreamer’), launched a line of meta ‘I am Carles’ t-shirts, coined the term ‘chillwave’, and culminated with Carles being named ‘Hipster of the Decade’ in a poll conducted by Gawker Media.
Despite the accolades, the writing was already on the wall. The great MP3 wave of 2009 and 2010 eventually ran out of steam, indie culture was wholesale bought up and resold by the mainstream, and the hipster ‘movement’ jumped the shark so many times even the Fonz felt embarrassed for it.
While other music sites were able to refocus and find greener pastures, Hipster Runoff was founded on the cult of Carles’ personality. And the more the site scrambled to ‘stay relevant’ and harvest ‘web clicks’ in a post-indie-economy, the more it spiralled into self-parody.
To paraphrase an online quote I’ve never been able to source properly, “When you are dead, you don’t know that you are dead. It is difficult only for the others.”
Those two lines provide a succinct eulogy for Hipster Runoff. A website that rose to international prominence on the coattails of indie bands, broadband cable, and hipsters at the turn of the decade, only to cannibalise itself as the scene went mainstream.
RIP HRO. You’ll be missed… sort of.
Hipster Runoff: A Few Old Faves
May, 2010: ‘Ode to a Fallen Bro of a Product: The CD Binder‘
Mikolai has spent the last three years living in the Middle East, flying around the world, and enjoying a minimal grasp of reality. He’s now back in the ‘real world’, and wondering why he can’t buy a decent coffee at 2am…
Mikolai spent the past three years living in the Middle East. He has written for media bros like Vice, Playboy, Frankie, The Age, Street Carnage and The Face, and tweets from @mikolai