We’d like to welcome Justin Gosnell, guitarist, keyboardist and producer of Vestascension, to the site, in what will hopefully become a regular column on the music business, being in band, and having to put up with Misha Mansoor on a regular basis.
Today sees the release of their fourth track of the year. The name Vestascension should be getting familiar with regular readers, so I’ll let Justin explain himself rather than stealing his thunder. Many thanks, Justin!
One At A Time? For Free? Are You Mad?
So the awesome dudes here at Heavy Blog Is Heavy have asked me to pen an article that explains the reasoning behind the release strategy for my band, Vestascension. I’m truly flattered to even be asked for one, but then I turned it in and upon reading it they realized I had at least a 4th grade writing level and so made the mistake of offering me my own little guest column! Thanks guys, it’s truly an honor!
So…welcome to the first installment of “Bestintensions with Justin Gosnell of Vestascension”! Over the course of my writings I’ll be talking about many things associated with the music industry, from the business end, touring, promotion, and just anything and everything to do with navigating the proverbial rocky mountain road. I don’t claim to be a know-it-all, but I’ve definitely paid very close attention during my time in the industry and spent the last four years in particular focusing on the business end of it as much as the music.
To give a little personal background: I’ve been writing and recording music for 16 years and with that I have of course experienced the many ups and downs that come with trying to make it your full-time career. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a personal level with various members of Nine Inch Nails, Porcupine Tree, Dark New Day, and quite a few others. I’ve done all kinds of touring from booking a 28-day tour 100% on my own, to being on full blown professional tours. I spent almost two years working as the tour manager for the band Periphery for their tours/shows with Fear Factory, Lamb Of God, Devildriver, Between The Buried And Me, Emmure, Winds Of Plague, and many other awesome bands and I’ve been fortunate enough to speak with representatives from many of the top labels and management companies in the industry. So that at least provides you with a little background into my career thus far. All of that information is not stuff I parade around telling everyone/bragging about – I’ve brought it up here in hopes it will establish a little credibility for myself and show I have first hand experience with many of the things I’ll be writing about in my column.
Over the years I’ve become a pretty opinionated guy with lots to say when it comes to the music business, so this first article will be a little long. There’s a lot of thought and reasoning that has gone into what my band is doing so I don’t really have a short answer. I’m expecting lots of “tl; dr” posted in the comments section. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re into marketing or even just a band looking for a different perspective on things you might find some of this interesting.
If you’re not familiar with my band, what we’re doing is releasing one brand new track on the first day of each month for the entire year and we’re giving it all away for
free. The most obvious reason for this right off the bat is to try and do something that is fresh and a bit different from the norm. I really feel that the ‘old’ way of releasing music is – to me – extremely dated and stale. It’s so predictable and just done to death at this point. I feel like we’d be doing ourselves a disservice by spending all of these years working on these tracks only to end up pressing them onto a standard CD, releasing it on one day, and that being it. Then what?! Wait another 2-3 years to release something else?! It’s like your release day comes, and then it’s gone. Boring.
Like any band, we get so excited for our release dates and now we have twele this year! It’s definitely exciting not just for any fans but for us as well; just waiting to see what people will think each month.
The second great thing is that we get the added benefit of being able to release twelve different versions of album art this year! Instead of having to come up with one design that represents an album, we’ve created ones that represent each song. Having a nice website and quality design is just something that so many ‘local’ bands overlook – they just refuse to spend money on these sorts of things (I’ll be going into more depth on this in future articles). Not us! We don’t just think that a standard CD release is lame strictly because of all the music coming out at once but also because of those shitty little album inserts that have itty bitty artwork and limited space. For certain bands your art and overall imagine can almost be as important as the music and I believe we are one of those bands. It’s sort of the icing on the cake so-to-speak. It just creates the entire package and just like with the music itself we’re also extremely excited to release new artwork and hear the feedback on that too.
Aside from our personal love of what we’re doing release-wise, there’s also the business side which happens to (I believe) be perfectly in sync with what we want to do. It just makes sense. I’ve spent four years deeply researching any and everything to do with marketing. I apply the same thought that Apple does to their products. Instead of telling people (consumers) what they want they take the time to instead pay attention and give the people what they want-even if they’re not asking verbally but instead by their actions/trends. Apple stays current and up to date with what’s going on in society and cater to those needs.
So how does all that apply to the music industry? The first thing one has to accept is that we’re living amongst the A.D.D. generation. People just don’t have the focus they used to – society is so fast paced nowadays that the majority of people don’t stop to pay attention to something for long, if at all! Add that to the fact there are a HUGE amount of bands out there trying to do the same thing you are which is trying to capture and hold peoples attention.
When you start reading statistics there is so much alarming data you begin to unearth. Simple things, like the amount of people that won’t even take your track if you require an email address-even for MAJOR bands! The amount of people that even if you don’t require an email address for download will skip getting the song if the process is too complicated or just takes too long. Do you know there are people out there that will download your song if it takes two clicks to get it but they’ll give up and move on if it takes three?! It’s just nuts, but it is what it is: something you have to adapt to.
I personally feel like bands set themselves up for this even more when the music they are making isn’t unique. For instance, if you’re one of 10,000 deathcore bands that don’t really have a signature sound or stand out at all, a potential consumer is aware of this – even if it’s a thought buried deep in their subconscious – and they’ll just put another band’s track that sounds just like yours on their iPod instead because that bands track was a breeze to get ahold of, and yours wasn’t or because theirs was free and yours cost money.
The second byproduct that comes with everything I’ve just talked about is how fast people consume and dispose of new music, and how little time and focus they will give to something new. There are exceptions, but the majority of people, when faced with listening to a new CD they’ve picked up (if they even buy CDs anymore), will maybe spin through it once, pick out the tracks they instantly dug, jam them for a while (probably removing them from the rest of the CD and putting them into their own playlist with other bands songs they love), and then they move on. People don’t even know song names any more – how many times have you asked someone “hey did you like that CD?” and they’ve responded with something like “yeah track two is awesome!”?? I do the exact same thing!
But what if some of your songs are ‘growers’? What if there really is a KILLER track on your disc that is just abandoned without even a second thought because it has a twenty-second intro that’s a cool effect or something to set the mood and since no music instantly started at full volume it was just passed on? When I think of our music I think of how long we took to create it, how long we spent on each song and all the time we took to agonize over every little detail. To us we feel like we don’t offer any filler whatsoever. Our music also has so much going on that there are plenty of tracks that might take repeated listens to get into. We have long intros and just so much ‘proggyness’ that all of it getting pressed onto one disc would just be so much to digest. We’d be so bummed if some of the tracks we just absolutely poured everything we had into making were just skipped within five seconds of the track playing by someone that didn’t hear anything immediately worthwhile and moved on.
With our method WE control how much you hear at a time. You have no choice but to just digest our music one song at a time (unless you came into the year late). With this strategy we can yield a much higher percentage of people that will give each song a full listen. Chances are they will give it a second or third chance if they didn’t dig it right off the bat. Of course, it’s not 100% full proof, but I’m sure overall we’re winning that battle. On the other end of things there is the HUGE benefit of the excitement it creates and the amount of attention people will be paying to us for an entire year! When you release a standard CD how long do you have their attention? Your next release will be what – one, two, five years away?!? You MUST keep people paying attention to you and this is just one of our ways of doing that. If someone jumps on board and becomes a fan of ours we have their attention for a whole year instead of for just one single random Tuesday.
As for it being free – well, it’s just awesome! For a band starting out why the hell would you charge for your CD? You’re trying to get your name out there and build your fanbase. Would you rather sell a hundred CDs and have a hundred fans, or would you rather give away your music and -since it’s free and more people are open to giving it a shot – get a thousand fans? If you’re not some huge established band with a quality track record I sure as hell wouldn’t give you $10 of my hard earned money without me feeling like there was at least an 85% chance I was REALLY going to enjoy what I was buying. I don’t ever want to charge money for our music. The only exception will be something like when a limited edition CD comes out at year’s end – some sort of special collection – or even just a small run of standard stripped down discs for people that really just want them.
There has in fact been a strong demand for one, but we’re only going to charge the bare minimum we have to. So if the disc cost us $.79 to press, $1.10 for a package to mail it in, and $1 for postage, we’d probably charge $3-4 bucks for the entire CD shipped to your door and because of that we’ll probably sell ten times as many of them.
When you break down the math, you can make the exact same profit you would from a normal CD but just gain so many more fans. Lets just say for example a CD costs you four bucks to have made. You sell it for $10 and you manage to sell 100 of them thus making a profit of $600. BUT: what if you sold them for $6 each and since they were so cheap way more people were willing to buy them and you end up selling 300 of them. You still make $600 but instead three hundred people are jamming your CD instead of only a third of that number!!
Same thing with merch. I laugh my ass off when I see a ‘local’ band selling their t-shirts for twenty bucks each. Really? You think your shirt is worth that much!? Think about it – you want as much of your merch out there as possible because each person wearing one is a walking billboard. You make a small profit off it instead of a huge one, but the advertising value alone is worth it in my humble opinion. I remember reading a story many many years ago about how Disturbed got signed. An A&R guy from a label went out to see a band they were considering signing (they were not there for Disturbed and if I recall correctly they weren’t even playing that night) and he saw so many people at the show wearing Disturbed shirts it completely peaked his interest and he just had to know who this Disturbed band was. Makes sense to me!
Okay; nearly done. So the veeeery last reason is that with using this method our music has essentially become ‘unleakable’. This is RARE in this day and age. Since only seven people have copies of our unreleased material (the five guys in the band and our very trustworthy mixing and mastering guys) it makes it easy to control this. There is no middle man involved. At midnight on the first day of the month I just upload the track right from my computer and that’s it!
So that’s essentially why we’re doing what we’re doing. Sorry this was so long, and my future writings will definitely be shorter – promise! Feel free to post feedback below in the comments section and I’ll be more than happy to respond.
Thanks again to Jimmy and Chris for allowing me the opportunity to write this as well as them being one of the first news/blog sites to begin supporting my band. Love you guys!