The Leslie Feist Futures Index

Returning to the topic of careers (the length of, and when to stop) inspired by a recent Saturday morning drive with the CBC as aural accompaniment (praise Sirius), it occurred to me that there are potentially two stages to the career of the typical quirky, niche-audience indie-type performer.

The ‘make records that get decent ratings, sell a few copies, and tour 500-capacity venues while sleeping in a van’ stage is one that can continue until you decide it’s too much bloody hassle.

But at some point, a fan who got into your music at student age may well end up in the advertising business, with the power to say, ‘hey, this track fits perfectly with…’ and you can insert the product here, but if you’re in the indiepop business, you’re going to be hoping beyond hope that it’s something with at least marginal credibility, and not tampons or fibre supplements. Dear gods, let it be Apple.

Consider it the musical equivalent of a mercy shag, albeit one that has the potential to get you on Saturday Night Live.

Thing is, you can’t predict when the commercial interest is going to kick in, and if you try too hard to court it, you become Moby — or worse, Liz Phair. But you don’t want to act too coy, because the last thing you want is the loyal fanboi who’s a junior producer at Creative Cokesnorters, Inc. thinking that your niche appeal is too precious to be exposed to the masses as part of a thirty-second sales pitch.

It raises a quandary: given that it generally takes a handful of years for your college-student fans to graduate and climb the ad-industry career ladder, is it worth flogging out another tour in a van before calling it a day? After all, there’s basically a point (again, hard to measure) where your commercial revival won’t happen till you’re dead.

Thus, the LFFI (not to be confused with this slightly more established financial venue) to quantify the likelihood of your favourite niche popster getting a career-enhancing, ad-fuelled moment in the limelight, and not alienating the fanbase as a result.