I know it’s not an original sentiment and I’m the millionth person to make this observation, but I feel compelled to go on record with a bastardization of Mark Twain’s famous words: the reports of the death of music have been greatly exaggerated.
As I observed in a past column, the intersection of art and commerce can, indeed, be a messy place. The music business is, without a doubt, at a point of crisis. People who’ve been making a killing for decades on the backs of hard-working creatives appear shell-shocked and confused in the face of a rapidly changing and, dare I say, evolving marketplace...
But what has sent those bean-counting cubicle dwellers scrambling is the very same thing that has brought those of us who love music more now than ever, and has also brought musicians and would-be musicians far greater opportunities to achieve their dreams. Yeah, that’s technology, but it’s more than that. The balance of power is shifting, from the businesspeople to the artists. And that’s good news for most of us.
I was recently fortunate enough to hear a pre-release copy of Widowers debut CD. Now, I’ve made no secret about how much I love this band, and I’ve been salivating over the prospect of studio recordings from the psych-pop minstrels for months. When Mike Marchant handed me a burned copy of the full-length, with hand-screened artwork, I couldn’t wait to pop it into my Honda’s dash. And, as my review in this week’s ink-and-pulp edition of the paper attests, I wasn’t disappointed.
But what pleased me even more was a MySpace bulletin I saw from Widowers a couple days later. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t the only lucky soul to receive an early burn. The bulletin politely requested that everyone who’d received a copy at the band’s Bar Bar show burn/rip/share the music with friends, family and pets as soon as possible. “Dads tend to love Widowers songs because they remind them of when they used to do drugs,” the bulletin said.
A couple of days later, the band posted a bulletin that included download links for half the tracks on the not-yet-released CD. Soon after, the estimable Donnybrook Writing Academy picked up a couple of the new songs for its podcast. If the anticipation hasn’t reached the roof’s pitch yet, it won’t.
Now, music business types would tell you this whole viral exposure strategy – which is probably not a strategy at all for Widowers, but simply an outgrowth of the group’s eagerness to have its music heard – is a terrible idea. After all, the whole point of a CD release party is to build anticipation and kick-start sales, right?
The answer to this question, as to so many of life’s biggest, is maybe. It all depends on your goal. Widowers is a band that has been incubating and building a buzz without a CD for a very long time. And to talk to Marchant, Cory Brown or anyone else involved, the group simply can’t wait to finally get its music out – in Denver and far beyond. And not because they want to sell a truckload – or even a palletload – of CDs and merch, but because they’re so proud of what they do and believe in it so much that they want to share it.
Widowers aren’t looking for validation, approval or sales. Sure, they want to move units, but not for the same reasons the suits do. They’re not looking for SoundScans. They’re looking for music. And so am I.