Category Archives: Music

The Web’s First Rock n’ Roll Success?

http://wiredblogs.tripod.com/monkeybites/index.blog?entry_id=1438139

article was removed so I copied the text via archive.org

by Michael Calore

“Well, not exactly nowhere, but a year ago, the impossibly young indie rock quartet were playing small clubs in their native Sheffield, UK. Now they have a best-selling album. They are currently playing a few shows in the major North American cities (all of which sold out in minutes), and afterwards, they will set out on a thirty-plus date tour of Japan and Europe before doing the obligatory festival circuit this summer.

None of this is really remarkable in a music industry that sees two or three overnight successes come and go every year. What makes Arctic Monkeys remarkable is that they are an indie band on an independent label, and that they achieved their sudden success almost entirely through grassroots promotion on the web.

The foursome got together in 2002. They started playing shows around Sheffield and passing out free CDs at gigs. They encouraged their fans to trade the tunes online and to post them to websites and P2P networks. Yes, they encouraged file trading. Eventually, more and more people found them on MySpace or on their website via word-of-mouth, and their reach started to widen. Fans started booking them in venues farther and farther away from their hometown. Wherever they played, everyone in the crowd knew the words to the songs. This is all before they even signed to a record label.

Then, when they finally signed to Domino Records (a UK indie) and released their debut album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” it hit number one on the UK charts, selling 360,000 copies in the first week. Nobody anticipated those kinds of numbers. In fact, those kinds of numbers made “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” the fastest-selling independent debut in UK history.

Their story is remarkable because of one fact: grassroots communication channels like MySpace and P2P file trading networks worked better than the major-label hype machine. The Arctic Monkeys became hugely popular because they wrote good songs, made them available to their fans for free, and encouraged them to share the MP3s with their friends.

Going by the current record company logic, that’s a huge no-no. If a band gives away all of its songs for free, then puts out a record filled with the same songs (even re-recorded versions), so the old philosophy goes, nobody’s going to buy the record. They already have the songs. It turns out that this scenario is decidedly not the case.

The final version of “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” was leaked onto P2P networks a few weeks before its official release. And it didn’t seem to have hurt the sales numbers when the record hit the retail shelves.

Many of us on this side of the music business (the consumer side) have been saying that the old logic is a myth, and that trading songs via P2P actually encourages people to buy more music. They are exposed to more bands and a wider variety of music. They get a chance to get excited about new music in a much more direct and natural way. They aren’t told about it by an advertisement or a video. They find it on their own or a friend tells them about it. They check it out, they like it, then they go to the store and buy the CD. And they probably buy more than just that one CD while they’re there.

Of course, it’s irresponsible to say that piracy isn’t hurting the record business in some way. It certainly isn’t healthy to your bottom line and your longevity to allow people to take your product without paying. And downloading without permission is stealing. But it’s also true that downloading a record and realizing that it’s a load of garbage is not going to get you excited about spending $17 on the real thing. Good music will always sell, either on CD or in the iTunes Music Store. But if you put out good music and allow people to hear it any way they want, it will sell, and it will sell well.

By the way, the Arctic Monkeys were the top sellers in the iTMS for ten days when their record was released stateside. They only sold one tenth of the amount of records here as they sold in the UK in the first week, but the sales were still rather impressive for a foreign indie act with minimal mainstream exposure.

Another point proven by the Arctic Monkey’s success is that the major labels are misguided about promotion and marketing. Pure word of mouth and an open trading policy actually work better than big-budget videos and full-page magazine spreads.

Or maybe the AMs just have a better view of what works and what doesn’t when you’re promoting a band on the internet. It’s probably because they are young — the four members range in age somewhere between 19 and 21 — and they have a sort of hipster radar that suits at the record companies usually lack. They mention ringtones and email in their lyrics. They know their audience.

In the end, the Arctic Monkeys are a really good band, plain and simple. They have good songs with strong lyrics, and they are well-produced. Thousands of bands know that giving away their music for free is the best way to get heard and the best way to reach new fans. They also understand that the fans you find on the Internet are far more loyal — and forgiving — than the fans you find through MTV or corporate radio. So why aren’t those other bands succeeding? Maybe they are afraid to give it all away for free, maybe they aren’t playing enough shows. Or maybe they just aren’t that good.

All it took was one band from this new subculture to hit it big — really big — in order to signal that a change is needed. The major labels are still scratching their heads wondering why the kids aren’t buying records they way they used to. And meanwhile, the Arctic Monkeys are selling hundreds of thousands of records and enjoying the success they made for themselves.”

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My favorite albums of 2005

album cover The Doves
Some Cities

released March 1, 2005
How can bands like Coldplay release something as boring as X&Y (after two pretty good albums) while the Doves have released 3 brilliant albums without nearly the same fanfare? If 3/4ths of the Coldplay bandwagoneers listened to the Doves, then they’d surely be playing to large venues with soccer moms too. Maybe Jimi Goodwin needs to date an American actress.
album cover Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene

released October 4, 2005
album cover The Editors
The Back Room

released July 28, 2005
Not the most original but who cares? These kids write some catchy tunes! Recommended if you like Interpol or Echo and the Bunnymen.
album cover The National
Alligator

released April 12, 2005
An absolute fantastic album that manages to be quite calming yet quite energetic at the same time. Matt Berninger’s calming baritone combined with Bryan Devendorf’s fluid and creative drumming makes for an interesting combination. Fellow Ohioans, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, along with bassist Scott Devendorf, crafted some wonderful tracks. Favorites are “Secret Meeting”, “Looking for Astronauts”, “Daughter’s of the Soho Riots”, “All the Wine”, “Geese of Beverly Road” and “Mr. November”.
album cover Silversun Pickups
Pikul

released July 26, 2005
Probably the most unknown band on my list. I saw these guys open for someone at Slim’s… oh yeah, Brendan Benson. I first heard this on KEXP.org. I’m looking forward to seeing these guys along with Amusement Parks On Fire open for Nine Black Alps at Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco next month. Can’t beat the price. $10.
album cover Rogue Wave
Descended Like Vultures

released October 25, 2005
album cover Foreign Born
In the Remote Woods [EP]

released June 21, 2005
I saw them open for Rogue Wave at the Great American Music Hall. Something about the sound seemed different live, not bad, just different. I like the album much better. The singer does have some fancy footwork though. Perhaps the guitars are louder, or the singer’s voice is deeper… who knows?
album cover New Pornographers
Twin Cinema

released August 23, 2005
album cover Calla
Collisions

released September 27, 2005
A late addition. I’m adding this mostly based on expectations after a couple listens.
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Foreign Born – In the Remote Woods

album cover
This is good! They are opening for Rogue Wave in San Francisco in December. Go early and check them out. Rated 7.6 on pitchforkmedia.com, for what it’s worth.

check out their website here

Customers who bought this title on Amazon also bought:
Broken Social Scene ~ Broken Social Scene
The Cloud Room ~ The Cloud Room
Funeral ~ The Arcade Fire
Picaresque ~ The Decemberists
Harmonies For The Haunted ~ stellastarr*
Bloc Party EP ~ Bloc Party
Engineers ~ Engineers
Several Arrows Later ~ matt pond PA

Difficult to pigeonhole yet instantly recognizable, Los Angeles-based Foreign Born vexes indie taxonomists like hardcore porn does Supreme Court justices, leaving critics to play the Potter Stewart “I know it when I see it” card rather than enumerate the requisites. In the Remote Woods is too fidgety for shoegazer, too upbeat for dour post-punk, and too varied for indie pop. Nevertheless, Foreign Born evoke all the familiar touchstones, stitching together Slowdive and the Stone Roses with newer benchmarks the Walkmen and Arcade Fire while carving their own niche alongside those artists.

Armed with bassist/producer and singer/composer tandem Lewis Pesacov and Matt Popieluch, these guys shrewdly cram every inch of the EP with lush keyboards and strings, complementing Popieluch’s taut, reverb-soaked melodies. Yet Garrett Ray’s aggressive drumming and driving tempos prevent this from being Souvlaki, not to mention Popieluch’s penchant for Bono-like theatrics. Opening track “The Entryway” shows off the group’s repertoire, beginning with a gritty goth bassline flanked by spotless synths and ringing guitar. From the first uttered lyrics, Popieluch steadily crescendos, nearly blowing out his vocal chords before a guitar solo brings the song home.

The EP’s middle tracks follow the precedent set by ex-Star Time behemoths the Walkmen. Standout “It Grew on You” cops the Walkmen’s searing guitar strumming and cataclysmic drum fills while Popieluch haphazardly slurs his lyrics a la Hamilton Leithauser. He’s no clone though, just Leithauser’s spirit bottled up inside a deeper, smoother croon. Dragging its feet on listless chords, “Exactly on the Verge”, though lacking in quirky, carnival playfulness, would fit nicely among Bows + Arrows nostalgic ballads, ending dolefully on the phrase “I was never so, so young.”

By the end of the record, the group runs low on ideas, and songs grow splotchy as a result. “Exactly on the Verge” both moves and drains as it structurally pales in comparison to its more complicated proceeding tracks. Closer “Remote Woods” starts with a primitive, fist-pumping riff pilfered from “I Will Follow”, but a mediocre verse leads only to a deflated chorus, and the repeated intro riff serves solely to resuscitate the song midway through. At final count though, Foreign Born’s tallies three shining nuggets and two intriguing yet fatigued tracks taken out of the oven too soon. It’s a sterling debut from a well-bred band only one caffeine fix away from a solid, potent full-length.

-Adam Moerder, August 26, 2005

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John Peels secret singles box

To say John Peel had a lot of records is rather like saying Kate Moss is photographed quite often. His collection of vinyl albums alone exceeded 25,000 ‘ which doesn’t include CDs. Then there are the 12in and 7in singles, as well as the countless demo tapes sent in by young hopefuls. One tiny corner of this audio empire, however, remained under strict martial law: his ‘record box’. At his feet in his home studio lay a sturdy wooden box in which he stored the 7in singles that meant the most to him. At the time of his death last year, this immensely personal collection numbered just 142 three-minute slices of pop. It was the thing he would carry with him if his house burnt down ‘ records he clearly felt he couldn’t live without.”

Read the rest of the article and see the list of 142 singles here:

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,14932-1833023,00.html

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The National – Alligator

album cover
On their third recording, the National strikes a delicate balance between light and dark, fast and slow, American and British. While their sound is undeniably tinged with darkness, it isn’t gloomy or depressing. This impression is mostly due to Matt Berninger’s deep baritone, which brings to mind such sensitive, but manly Brit vocalists as Scott Walker and Stuart Staples of the Tindersticks. The National, however, are American. Formed in Brooklyn in 1999, the quintet hails from Cincinatti and doesn’t sound much like a New York Band (Interpol, the Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, etc.). Instead, they could be Midwestern or even Canadian in the way they combine alt-country, chamber-pop, and post-punk angst, like Toronto’s Royal City or Montreal’s Arcade Fire. Often compared to Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits, the National’s music is actually faster-paced and has a lighter, almost jaunty touch. In other words: they rock.
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Catherine Wheel, Swervedriver and Ride on the same bill this August! (sort of)

San Diego CA
at M-Theory Music (a record store) www.mtheorymusic.com
Saturday, August 13th, 7:00 pm. Admission FREE

3 solo acoustic performances by:

Mark Gardener of Ride
Rob Dickinson of Catherine Wheel
Adam Franklin of Swervedriver

Sat. Aug. 13th @ 7pm: 2nd Annual Sonic Summer Bash! Last year we brought you Louis XIV and David J (Bauhaus). This year, we’ve risen to the occasion again with a shoegazer’s dream bill. Drum roll please’..

The All-Headliner Line-Up will be:

9pm: Mark Gardener (Ride)

8pm: Rob Dickinson (Catherine Wheel)

7pm: Adam Franklin (Swervedriver)
Editor’s note: There’s a reason why we named our store puppy Swervie and it’s not because she walks funny.

This is a not to be missed in-store party. Mark is coming from the UK and Adam is coming from New York City specifically for this show. They are not playing elsewhere. If for some reason you’re not familiar with these bands, do yourself a favor and do a search on google for their websites. These artists have an amazing history with their former bands and their solo work is continuing in that tradition of quality. We cannot wait for this show!

After party at the Whistle Stop Bar for One Nation Under A Groove w/DJ Bart Blackstone.

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Stars – Set Yourself On Fire

album cover
Sure they look pretty and sound pretty and all, but is this Montreal-based quartet ever going to amount to much, you know in the course of “rock history”? Very likely, if their captivating third album, Set Yourself on Fire, is any indication. Vocalists Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell have never harmonized better together, and the whole keyboard-heavy band is at that delectable place where they transcend their influences. Great pop music is not about “originality” (nor has it ever much been); it’s a passionate marriage of idea and conviction. Sure, you can still hear the mark of Beulah, the Smiths, New Order, Broken Social Scene and Super Furry Animals in their songs. But the group has never been as confident with their marriage of lush, exuberant dreampop and dark, clever lyrics as they are here. –Mike McGonigal

Album Description
The third LP for this Canadian band, following their amazing sophomore set, “Heart;” a critical smash. “Set Yourself on Fire” is a self-proclaimed Sex, Death, & Robots record, with rich and ornate depths. Produced by TONY HOFFER (Beck, Air, Grandaddy, Phoenix).

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