The internet’s effect on how we consume media is old hat. Exactly how artists navigate the web to their advantage, however, is still worth exploring. Music was a rigid, record-label driven industry for a long time. Many labels have adapted to survive, but the bottom falling out certainly changed how indie bands conduct themselves.
Bands are still learning hard lessons, and there’s a lot of experimentation. Streaming companies such as Spotify and Pandora have been the main talking point, but the conversation has been focused almost entirely on piracy. Sarah, lead singer of synth rockin’ duo The DROiDS, however, isn’t convinced piracy is to blame.
“Large corporations have a lot to lose if they take risks, and art is all about risks and exploration. So they tend to put out only what their market data tells them will make them the most money,” Sarah explains. “With technology and software becoming less expensive and more prevalent, independent artists are empowered to make our art and spread it through our own sites and bypass the large music industry altogether. It’s more work, since we have to do it all ourselves, but it’s possible now. Getting signed by a major record label is not our only avenue any longer.”
“Power to the people, and all that jazz.”
It’s a sobering response that focuses on the doors opened, rather than those closed. For Sarah and her husband Josh – the other half of DROiDS – the use of services such as Bandcamp and Patreon have allowed the duo to continue to record and connect with fans while raising their daughter.
“Kids are a heck of a lot of work and so is pursuing art, so we are just gluttons for punishment now. While our daughter digs that we music, she just sees us as her parents. She doesn’t actually care that much about it, it’s just normal to her. But she is exposed to a lot of music and will probably be doomed to at least get into music on some level. And that’s great. But nothing will keep you humble like having your kid tell you what they think about your art.”
While many bands shy away from exposing their personal life, The DROiDS have made the fact they are parents clear from the get-go.
“We’d rather you know that we are regular people and we are doing all of this ourselves, and even have the hindrances most regular people do, and we still make this music … I hope it helps inspire people to take their own passions seriously.”
Sarah sees Patreon as a method for connecting to fans on a closer level.
“We make videos called ‘Talk Abouts’ where Josh and I walk through how the song was built and stories about how we came up with it or things that happened. It’s fun. But the largest portion of our interaction with people is still on our Twitter accounts. I love how much Twitter gives us the chance to actually communicate.”
Sure, bands using Twitter isn’t new, and Patreon for bands is basically a follow-on from the KISS Army. Maybe it’s the fact that The DROiDS’ music sounds like robots and cyberdemons colliding harmoniously, but something about their approach speaks to the future of music distribution.
The DROiDS use Bandcamp, but don’t follow the tradition of dropping individual releases. Their page doesn’t consist of any EPs, albums or demos. It’s just a long stream of songs, continuously updated.
It’s a decision that makes a lot of sense: the concept of an album, while it’s certainly carried over to the digital world, is based on the idea of a physical format, purchased and consumed as a single entity.
For a long time, people have broken down the album format: mixtapes, compilation CDs, and playlists all reject the artist-curated experience. Streaming services have made this the rule rather than the exception, but funnily enough, Spotify’s assortment of DROiDS songs is split into albums. Only through Bandcamp can listeners get the band’s raw, roll-on of music.
“We put out a new song every few weeks. That way you don’t have to wait a couple years for the next big album release. We do eventually compile all the songs for the year into albums to put them out on iTunes and Spotify. But no one has to wait for that. Keep close, and you won’t miss anything.”
It’s unlikely the band’s strategy is going to completely change the game, but if these two have found a way to raise a kid and make music that sounds like Transformers beating the shit out of each other? It’s probably worth taking note.