Holding on by letting go, part one

Bands in Denver are lucky. Getting gigs and building a fanbase locally are actually pretty easy. There's no shortage of small and midsized venues where a nascent group can cut its teeth, build the buzz and start to plot its graduation to theaters. But how do you get your music into the hands and ears of people who don't breathe our thin air? How do you tangle with the machinery of the music business? Do you have to? In my conversations with Denver musicians, this question comes up again and again. Many of these folks don't give a damn if they ever make a dime from their art, and are only concerned with having it heard. Others are hoping to make a living doing what they love best. But how? I recently ran across a couple of exciting cases that I think might serve as good examples for Denver bands who want to get their music out. I want to tell you about one of them today.

You're forgiven if you don't remember a '90s alt-rock outfit called the Presidents of the United States of America. If you do remember them from hits like "Peaches" or "Kitty," you're forgiven if you had no idea they were still making music. In fact, the Seattle band has been in and out of retirement a time or two, and is planning a big European and US tour this year. But how to get the world's attention and garner interest for your live shows (where you can actually make a buck or two) when so many folks have forgotten you or (more to the point for Denver bands) never knew you existed?

Enter Dave Dederer, member of the band and VP of Business Development for an entertainment software company called Melodeo. His company put together a little iPhone application that streams the complete contents of four Presidents albums (Freaked Out and Small, Love Everybody, These are the Good Times People, and Froggystyle [previously only available on cassette]), and can be updated with more content as time goes on. Nine Inch Nails, Snow Patrol and others have also released iPhone apps recently, but the Presidents are the first I'm aware of to make most of their discography available through this technology, and at such a low price. This little app can be purchased from a mere three bucks! Talk about an easy entry point. The band is able to distribute a huge quantity of its music to a huge potential base, while retaining a far greater percentage of the profits than they would get from CD or download sales, and -- more importantly -- retaining 100 percent artistic control and freedom. This goes way beyond setting up a Myspace page and streaming a few songs.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about a completely different approach an artist is taking to get his music heard. This one has absolutely nothing to do with money. In the meantime, check out an extensive article on the Presidents' iPhone app over at Wired.

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