Monday, October 19, 2009

Open Letter from a Fan of The Felice Brothers

Editors Note; This is written by a fan, I do not know what the plans are for the Felice Brothers going forward. This letter does pose important questions for a rock band in the 21st century which is why i included it, like, What role does a record company play in the this digital age? Are they even neccessary? and to what degree? What about a band like the Felice Brothers who have a good following, can they go on without a "label" if they chose too? not sure

By Nick Roberts
There is something inherently magical about finding a band in it's youth, when few people know about them, when you get to see them in intimate settings, when you come into a small club and see some crazy wild eyed young man at the bar drinking a pint of beer and moments later that same young man takes the stage, grabs a guitar and begins to play for you. And the songs they play move you, take you back to a time forgotten and buried under today's newspaper stories of fear and terror. They tell stories of an America that is slowly slipping away underneath our feet and being paved over with shiny objects that distract us and make our hearts smaller and our minds narrowed to the idea of God and something bigger than ourselves and the things we own, the trophies we place around us. We have just found something magical, esoteric, something hidden. Something we can hold to our chest, clutch onto and keep warm.

But eventually if that band is good more people will start to take notice. Articles will be written, websites will be built, stars will appear next to their record reviews and they might actually become successfull. With their success we chance to loose that connection we once had. It's a selfish desire for bands to stay small and play in our back yards, but it's a feeling alot of fans share. Which leads me to my point.

I was recently posed a question that has nothing to do with my personal life, my finances, does not provide groceries for my children, yet it does have the chance to effect my spirit. Mayan calenders and drunken prophets dead and buried have predicted the world to end in 3 years time, so finding your loveseat position next to God is an important thing. Music helps us do that. The Felice Brothers help me to do that.

The Fact is The Felice Brothers had a two record deal with Team Love label and that has now has ended. This leads us to the Question; Where do they go from here?
Suffice it to say i am not a record executive. I do not know the ins and outs of the music industry. But i do know music. And I believe i see the problems in the modern day music industry. And for the money that labels provide, the exposure generated, the revenue thrown at other people to get them to take notice, to listen? People pay money to get Rolling Stone reviews, they pay money to get "critics" to listen to their albums. Does this build a fan base, no. Does it provide exposure? Yes, to a small extent it does, but until those stars they put next to the album have a scratch-n-sniff quality that puts out music, it's lacking. Rolling Stone is not the magazine it was 30 years ago and hopefully their subscriptions reflect that, how they rate albums is absolute bullshit. Why would i need someone to represent that, why would i give away my money for that. As for more independent magazines; Pitchfork, Paste, i'm not sure if their is any "bribery" involved. I don't know.

Do Labels plaster posters on telephone polls around the city to promote a bands upcoming concert? Do they go to indie record shops and put up posters on their windows advertising the release of a new album? Do Labels buy tickets, then buy more tickets for their unawakened friends and bring them along to the show? Fans do. This can all be done by "Street Teams", by, free of charge. By people who actually just love the music.

I understand the need for a label in the begining, to get you out there, to push for radio play, but indie stations will always have dj's that will listen to an album, rather have an ear for good music and put that on the air, whether that be something you dial into, fm, or a podcast like Martin here on the Board is doing and doing it well. And I've never heard The Brothers, Duke&the King on the Radio, nor did i hear The Horse Feathers, the Avett Brothers, the Everybodyfields, Mark Kozelek, or Malcolm Holcombe or any of the other bands i really love on the air, but i did hear a recording.

Exposure? The music is the exposure, how you get them to hear the music is the issue. Allowing audience taping is a great means of doing just that and it's free advertising. It's a great tool that's been used by many bands (Avett Brothers, Phish, Dave Mathews Band, Pearl Jam. . .) to increase their fanbase and also to build a community out of those fans. If the music isn't played on the radio how else will it be heard? Dimeadozen, the Trader's Den, bt.etree is exposure, the Live Music Archive is exposure, much more so than a written blurb but an actual auditory experience, free sample if you will. And you don't have to pay for it to find out if you like it! That brings fans, that brought me and many others here, it has an ""almost"" similar effect to going to a show of a band you didn't know and coming out a fan. To me it's a much more realistic representation of what a band is and hopefully an idea of what they could be. Not to mention it's a relatively untapped market. Pearl Jam put out cd's of almost an entire tour, captured by the soudboard, bound in carboard covers and sold them to the fans.

You don't need record exec's to make an album, you don't need to pay exhorbent prices for studio space when you carry those same damn instruments around with you into small clubs all over the country. You just need it mixed properly. Then you need advertising and distribution. You need a fan base, thanks record company, that already happened, and by no help from you. A good example is the Avett Brothers, they may be on Columbia now, but who is the group that's gonna follow them all over the country, buy everything they put out, the fans that have always been there. The dedicated ones who fell in love with a band that the whole world didn't know about yet-US- we'll be there. As we will be for the Brothers.
Don't get me wrong, i want them to live well, enjoy the fruits of their labor, i just don't see the "need" to forfeit so much to attain that goal. I don't see it at all.

I have been inside the standing audiences that surround musicians on the street, halo-ing them, keeping them safe, building walls out of our bodies for the music to bounce off of and richochet, a moving cathedral built by those who close in and listen and then that church dismantled as the last note fades and the guitars go back into their cases. The Felice Brothers have that.