What are the odds that, after local musicians Claymore Disco and the ReMINDers talked about overcoming recording obstacles for this week's column, their sentiments would be echoed in a press release concerning — of all things — Beyoncé's new album?
Better than you might expect, as it turns out. We'll get into that in a moment, but first, a bit of historical context.
Unless you've been brainwashed by the Recording Industry Association of America, you know that the music industry has a largely deserved reputation for exploiting musicians.
American Bandstand host Dick Clark, for instance, reportedly featured some 150 songs on his show under the condition that he receive co-writing credits on all of them.
In subsequent decades, record companies and distributors have taken such large percentages of sales revenues that musicians receive just pennies on the dollar.
And if a band fails to recoup record-company expenses (which sometimes involve dubious accounting practices), a label can block them from ever putting out another album.
Maybe it's not surprising, then, that the industry has managed to shift the blame onto music fans. Downloading free music obviously cheats artists out of royalties, while on-demand services like Spotify and Rhapsody have made confidential arrangements with labels that result in musicians receiving next to nothing.
So what's an artist to do?
Well, if you're talking about Beyoncé and her self-titled new release, you can view BitTorrent downloads as just one more promotional avenue.
"It has sold over a million copies in a week, but been stolen 240,000 times in that same period," reports the unexpectedly cheerful Musicmetric founder Gregory Mead, whose company tracks real-time data for major labels. "The usefulness of BitTorrent data is that it allows record labels to have an incredibly detailed insight into where their artists are popular — right down to the town. Although the file sharing numbers may be high, it will be possible to translate many of these into buyers."
OK, then, let's rephrase the previous question: What's a POOR artist to do?
Well, for Claymore Disco frontman Garret Myers, it's to simply give away the music for free, with no strings attached. The local electropop band has just made a new single, "Light Ahead of Me," available as a free download at noisetrade.com/claymoredisco. It's the first in a series of tracks the band will ultimately be releasing as an EP.
Like Mead, Myers is hoping any lost sales will be offset by exposing the band's music to more potential consumers. "The people that buy our EP, once it's out," he says, "will be buying it because they want the song and remix that are exclusive to the EP — and for the simple fact that they'd just like a physical copy to remember the show they attended."
Recording expenses, meanwhile, will be minimal, thanks to studio time the band won earlier this month in a contest sponsored by Denver's "modern rock" station, KTCL 93.3. The prize package also includes radio airplay, an appearance on the main stage at the Westword Music Showcase, and an opening slot on a future 1st Bank Center concert.
Meanwhile, the ReMINDers' Antoine "Samir" Zamundu is also considering a break from the more methodical approach that led to a four-year gap between the duo's two albums.
"This year, for sure, there's definitely gonna be more music coming," says Samir, who with Aja Black spent four years working on the hip-hop duo's 2012 Born Champions CD. "Whether that means putting out an EP or just putting out singles and videos, we're definitely playing it by ear."
Another priority will be playing much more frequent local shows, beginning with an early afternoon performance Saturday to close out Acacia Park's "Skate in the Park" series. That's a big change for a group who performed this summer in front of 10,000 people at the Soundset underground hip-hop festival, and joined rapper Brother Ali for two sold-out nights at First Avenue, the club featured in Prince's Purple Rain film.
Meanwhile, the group continues its efforts at the national level. "It hasn't caught on yet, so we've got to just keep working harder," says the emcee, who's learned more about the industry each step of the way. "Sometimes it has nothing to do with talent, it's the relationships that will really get you further."
And while blatant self-promotion is often viewed as the key to success, the ReMINDers prefer relationships that run deep, like the one they've forged with Brother Ali. "It's really a genuine friendship," says Samir, "and those outlast any kind of business deal."