The modern band’s trade off, in the post-label world of course is now ‘do you want your music out there, online, available and ready to digest by the masses from Milan to Minsk?’ Or is it still your product, to be purchased as if it were picked off the shelf, like you might have done in the beforetime, when owning a CD was well, necessary? And if anyone obtains it by foul means rather than fair, but the amount of audience your songs touch is exponentially increased, is this to be followed by cheers or jeers at band HQ?
Thats the position lil old us have found ourselves in since about a week before Christmas. We had just finished our Irish support shows with Lovers and were all ready for turkey when Google threw up some interesting results on recent links to our album. It went rogue on us… Some enterprising soul somewhere on the planet uploaded our album to some (whisper it) illegal file sharing sites (I’d like to think it looked something like this, Firefly geeks http://tiny.cc/ldvlk ) and that spread to others, and to others etc. A week later, we’ve had a huge upsurge in everything Sleep Thieves online; search results, recommendations on regular folks’ blogs, twitter accounts and Facebook pages as well as far more views of our Youtube videos… Most of all though, a huge increase in the people listening out there…
Our Soundcloud plays have shot up, also plays on Bandcamp have increased but the best barometer is LastFM I feel, where each play is genuine, i.e. its from someone specific that has your music on their iPod, laptop and played the whole song, unlike Myspaces more dubious play counts. After seeing this, I’ve kept a close eye on our stats in the site and in the last 2 weeks, compared with say, the last 2 months we have enjoyed a tenfold increase in the amount of unique LastFM listeners and an even bigger spike in the amount of plays scrobbled or captured from these users. So more people are listening, and they’re listening to more than one song from the figures, not just one snippet and moving on. Great, you say, and great, we say! But that brings us on to the next point…
This transformation only occured when the album was widely available FREE of charge, which we haven’t entertained yet, as an album out less than a year (with another single/video left in its tank, sports fans), you don’t give away the keys to the kingdom that easy… To try and convince you that this isn’t just one huge, thinly disguised humblebrag, I can tell you that since the filesharing floodgates opened unannounced in late December we’ve seen… 2 sales on bandcamp, (iTunes etc don’t report as quickly so we won’t know about that for a while) but even with all these listens, and our music now getting out there internationally on a scale we’ve not seen for ourselves before, we’ve still in the proverbial band poor house
So in the post label, (almost) post radio age, is this the ‘high fives all round’ moment for the unsigned band, and to accept that en masse people just don’t buy full albums anywhere near as much anymore, especially take a ‘chance’ on some Irish act they stumbled upon online, but they will pursue the band’s material and consume it and recommend it, and things grow from that fileshared, torrented acorn? Or is music still to be as safely guarded, barcoded and sold as the ultimate store of a band’s worth? At the Hard Working Class Heroes festival’s panel sessions this year various interested stakeholders in the new music model were present (Hype Machine, Soundcloud, several indie labels etc) and there seemed to be a distinct line in the sand on this, with about 50-50 on each side of it.
Just to clarify, we’re delighted with the new attention and extension to Heart Waves lifespan (our album, dummy). How could we not be? As I write, for example over the last day alone via our LastFM page (http://www.last.fm/music/Sleep+Thieves)
- a girl from the Phillippines & Holland listened to 5AM, November 6th
- a guy from Russia scrobbled Magnetic Heart
- a guy from America listened to Please Call Back
As a band you can’t help but feel pumped to see that type of international, varied activity, even if Paypal isn’t exactly bulging at the seams every time it happens. Can’t we have have both, sales, listeners and plays? 2 out of 3 ain’t bad
Thanks for stopping by,
Wayne / Sleep Thieves
PS. Just to keep the tone of the end of this post/question/exercise in whatever as even as possible, we can admit at this stage of the album’s lifespan that this spike probably wouldn’t have come to pass without the work of some keyboard crusader from Nowheresville, getting hold of the album and spreading it around the net.
An official ‘How could you?!’ and a whispered ‘Thanks mate!’ are in order…?