Monday, February 1, 2010

Interview On Alternative Ways of Releasing Music

I was interviewed by writer, Emily Zemler, when she was putting together an article that came out today on alternative methods of releasing music for Alternative Press music magazine. As I tend to say much more than can fit in print, I figured I'd share all my answers with you here.

What was your motivation for releasing a song each month in 2009?

Everyone was saying that 2009 was going to be a dismal year and I wanted to have a way to get through it, and maybe even enjoy it. I finished recording "Everything Changes and Nothing Changes" in 2008 and decided to release it myself. Without a budget for promotion, I was concerned that if I put the whole thing out at once, the album might get buried by a thousand other releases before my fans could hear about it. I had put out one song, America, as a digital single before the November elections, and I liked how it went, so I figured I could do that for the rest of the record.

How did you release them?

A song at the first of each month from March to December of 2009 with a digital EP of the first five songs released in June and a compilation of all the songs as a physical and digital full-length on December 1st 2009. Each song was accompanied by an individual piece of my own artwork: linoleum and wood block prints. I experimented and released some songs for free, some for a buck, and America was a suggested donation to a few non-profits.

Did you find that to be successful?

It was great for keeping a consistent dialogue with my fans and I loved the feeling of always having a new song waiting in the wings, but looking back, the most successful part was just recording a bunch of songs that I was proud of, regardless of how they got released. I wouldn't encourage anyone to choose their method of releasing material before they first recorded something they were excited to share with the world.

Why compile the songs into an album after releasing them?

I liked the way that the songs sounded together in a certain order, so I didn't want to lose the album idea altogether. I also like it when an artist's work from a certain period of time is grouped together. It makes their catalog much more navigable. Enough fans requested that I put out a physical CD that I did a short run of those with the artwork from the individual songs included in a booklet.

Did you model this after any other artists who have done similar things?

I had a few friends in Northern California that tried releasing music in small amounts on a consistent basis, and I'd had discussions with a lot of musicians and industry folks about doing something different from an album, so I kept everyone else's ideas and experiences in mind when figuring out what would work best for my album.

Do you see this as the future of music?

Whether we're communicating or not, all artists that are trying something different are in collaboration with one another, and at some point it's possible that what we're all doing as individuals evolves into a standard model for everyone, but I kind of I hope that it stays open to interpretation. The freedom to frame the way that your audience receives your art allows for so many additional opportunities to express yourself. I hope people just keep coming up with something that suits them best.

As an artist who has been signed to a major, what are the benefits of self-releasing music? The drawbacks?

Being out there alone is intimidating, but well worth the freedom to do and say whatever you'd like, whenever you'd like, especially on the still semi-wild frontier of the internet. It's easy to get discouraged when navigating through it without a budget or booking agent or publicist, but a musician has to be concerned with making music, and a business has to be concerned with making money. Art and commerce always have tension with one another. So it has been refreshing to set my own expectations for myself around my music, and not worry about living up to the goals of other people involved.

What's your plan for releasing music in 2010?

When adding production in the studio, I try to do what makes the most sense for each individual song and I'll have to adopt the same attitude for how I release my recordings. I have my next handful of songs written now and I hope to record them this summer or fall. Then I'll have to see what feels best.