Ben Folds Five, Music And Marketing.

Hello. Bit of a different post today, in that rather than banging on about stuff not working, or people being dicks, I’m going to shamelessly promote a band I like and talk about music and stuff. I’m mostly doing it to spread the good word but it won’t hurt if my passion for sound is interpreted as my having a soul of some kind, because I’m not actually a total monster. Forty percent at most. Ordinarily a huge faceless music label churns out disgustingly expensive marketing campaigns in order to milk a tasty profit from somebody else’s talent goat, but increasingly the bands themselves are going it alone. This is a good thing. One advantage is the increased dialogue with the audience, the fans, helped in no small way by the social media explosion online. In this case it extends to asking the audience to help with PR.

The band of which I speak are Ben Folds Five, and they are awesome. Ben Folds (Piano, lead vocals), Darren Jessee (Drums) and Robert Sledge (Bass) make up the confusingly named Five, and have been creating clever, catchy, emotive, funny and musically brilliant songs since they formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It’s a wonderful mix of rock, punk and ballad, hard to explain but impossible to turn off. Recently Mr Folds has been going it alone and releasing quality record after quality record, by which I mean lots of good albums and EPs, not just two quality records in quick succession. Myself and my multi instrumentalist, talented shit of a friend have covered, or attempted to cover, a large portion of the tracks on these albums, both band and solo work, and frankly we’re starting to run out. Now, quite excellently, the Five (three) are back together, with a new full length album due sometime in September.
So far, so normal. The difference this time is that the band are using the fans to promote the album, inviting them to become a ‘Vice President of Promotion’. To do this you simply ‘pledge’ an amount at this link, which basically equates to just preordering the album, which if you had any sense you were going to do anyway. It’s a pretty sweet deal. You get kept up to date with all the info, news, photos and vids that any self respecting mini stalker would desire, you get your name included in the vinyl artwork or poster artwork, you get the album quick-smart, with the option of paying a bit more for a signed copy, and you get to help out a band you like. It would also appear that in writing an article or blog post or some such the band will repost the link, creating traffic for your own site. Which is nice.
Obviously, I’m a rabid fan. No actual Rabies you understand, but Ben Folds Five have been a favourite since I was twelve or thirteen, which means just over half my life, and if I can contribute to such fine work being out there – in any way at all – I’m gonna do it. Some music becomes the soundtrack to your life, attaching itself to important events, beautiful fortunes and bitter defeats and the BFF back catalogue pretty much plays in a loop in my head. Aside from my undying loyalty though, the model does seem like a good one. The songs get made, those most likely to enjoy it are involved, no middle men get to stick their silly noses in, everyone’s a winner. If I had to give but one example of the greatness of the internet, it would be that because of it, musicians are increasingly less tied to labels and the bullshit they bring with them. If I had to give another, I would cite naked ladies. If I was on a desert island and had to choose between my copy of ‘Whatever and Ever, Amen’ and naked ladies, it would be a genuinely difficult choice. I’d probably go for the ladies, but only because it’s unlikely there’d be a CD player on a desert island.
There are plenty artists out there now, doing their own recording, mixing, marketing and in some cases actually singing, live, in concert. I know, right! Another favourite of mine, Ok Go, have gone as far as creating their own label, Paracadute, and they’re doing pretty well as far as I can see. Key seems to be making creative, incredible content, connecting with your fans on a slightly deeper level than ‘buy our stuff’ and maintaining communication, things that are easy enough to do in this day and age. What you want as an act, is longevity, the chance to do what you love – and to be paid for it – for as long as is sustainable, and a good way to do that is to let those listening to you know that you’ll return the favour as best you can. There’s a difference between saying you love your fans and it looking like you actually do to those who follow you, and a huge part of that is interactivity.

Anyway, if you don’t know of Ben Folds and the Five, you better bloody well check them out. Google it, that’s what one does now isn’t it. Buy some albums. Pledge for the new one. Then have a tidy up because it’s a mess in here. Here’s a link to an unmastered track off the upcoming album. It’s well good.

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