New EP cut the old way
These days, anyone with a computer, a bit of know-how, and a quiet room can cut an album. Within minutes people all over the world can listen to it on MySpace or buy a track on Bandcamp, an online music distribution site that cuts traditional record companies out of the business. A physical CD has gone the way of the cassette tape and the LP. The next generation is listening and buying online.
One fledgling Wellington band thinks there are still good reasons to hold onto the old way of making an album, while gleaning the benefits of new social media to promote and fund it.
“The type of music we’re playing is going to flourish in a studio environment,” says Louis Thompson-Munn, lead vocalist and pianist for Astro Empire, a six-man group of recent New Zealand School of Music graduates who perform original funky contemporary soul music with guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, and sax. They formed last September and will play at Southern Cross this Saturday.
Thompson-Munn and his band mates have done the DIY thing— three of their songs can be listened to and downloaded from Bandcamp. “We recorded those tracks ourselves in a rehearsal room and overdubbed them in our guitarist’s wardrobe,” says Thompson-Munn. Now, the band wants a more professional product by recording an EP at Wellington’s Munki Studios. “We just decided to really put our best foot forward. We can get a really polished and perfected sound in a studio because we have complete control of the basic sound we want to get across.”
To get it done they posted an appeal for funding on PledgeMe, another modern online affectation and increasingly popular money source for young artists lacking the dollars to follow their dreams. Astro Empire asked for $2,500 to assist in the cost of their EP, which Thompson-Munn says is the minimum needed to record. Additional expenses include promotion and pressing and packaging of CDs, which bands often forego now in favor of an electronic file from the studio to sell online.
However, Astro Empire wants a physical CD. “You want people to have something in their hand,” says Thompson-Munn. “A lot of people are into having the mp3 on their computer, but if I really dig something I want the real deal. If bands are playing around and have a CD to their name they should have CDs for sale at their gigs.”
An Australian native who taught himself to play on an old out-of-tune piano, Thompson-Munn makes ends meet teaching, gigging in and outside of Astro Empire, and working at a hardware store, and says his five band mates are all working musicians. If they didn’t meet the $2,500 goal by last Sunday night at 9pm, they wouldn’t get any of the money.
Just two days before the deadline they’d only raised $950. Last minute online outreach on PledgeMe and Facebook roused the masses and 51 friends, family, and fans gave to the cause including several anonymous donors. The band will be recording all week and playing live this weekend.
Astro Empire, Southern Cross Bar, 9:30pm, June 16.