In the dustbowl days of the early 20th century, the refrain could be heard far and wide: Brother, can you spare a dime? Now, though, things are markedly different. More often, people – especially those in the music field – seem to be in unison, Hey! Quick! Give me a click!
With the advent and resulting cultural onslaught of the internet, it’s becoming harder and harder for people who make things to be seen or heard in the swirling cacophony of content. So, musicians are getting creative with new ways to release their work. Taking stock of 2017, we wanted to showcase five different acts that released their music in new ways.
Matt ‘Spek’ Watson: One of the Emerald City’s masters of the internet, Watson has made splashes for his Bitter Barista series, Amazon parody videos and Marshawn Lynch remixing. Between stints going viral online, Watson writes, records and produces his own music under the moniker Spekulation. Recently, he released a new instrumental album, The Crossover Event, featuring samples and instrumentation from nearly two-dozen local musicians. But instead of pressing CD’s or vinyl, Spek released the album online, prominently using Facebook, with an accompanying animated video. “I don’t know if I’d call it a strategy, but it was at least a goal to make the most complete package possible and really go over the top with it and then release it all at once,” he says. And without getting too much in the weeds of social media algorithms, Spek has seen his album – or at least parts of it – streamed tens of thousands of times, whether that’s one song, part of a song, or part of the video. “The idea was to drop as much varied content as possible for at least a couple weeks in hopes that sustained attention would snowball into more listeners.” It’s working.
General Mojo’s: Drummer Heather Thomas is involved in myriad musical projects in and around the city. Whether on tour with the great Mary Lambert or drumming and singing in her self-titled solo project, Thomas gives a lot to the Seattle music scene. Her latest offering is taking part in an upcoming 24-hour jam with her band, General Mojo’s, set to debut Dec. 27th at 9am and raise money for the band’s upcoming EP and the charity ANEW. “I came up for the idea of a 24-hour live stream fundraiser when we were brainstorming ways to fund our next album,” says Thomas. “We love to see bands successfully crowd funding, but we felt like our market was pretty saturated with Kickstarter campaigns and we wanted to do something different. As soon as I suggested playing music for 24 hours, the guys were excited about it, so we knew we were on to something.”
Marina Albero: The virtuoso Seattle piano player (by way of Spain), who works regularly in the epic Teatro Zinzanni production (and who we wrote about here), opened a subscription patreon profile that has, through generous donations of her followers, allowed her to release 12 new videos and almost 20 audio tracks. “I’ve been dreaming about the existence of such a virtual platform,” she says. It’s a way she can remain connected to fans and make money in an era when it’s often hard to find some.
Electric NoNo: The rock ‘n’ roll duo of brothers Dominic and Jared Cortese have an affinity for sports, whether it’s watching their former hometown Detroit Lions football or rooting for the Seattle Mariners baseball team. Combining this love with their band and a sense of childhood brotherly nostalgia, Electric NoNo (named after a no-hit pitching performance by Doc Ellis, allegedly fueled by acid), released download codes for their latest record on baseball cards. “Our first idea was to make a hologram card with two images that alternated depending on which way you held it. Like the old Sportflicks trading cards,” says frontman, Jared. “I looked around and found a really awesome company that helped me custom design something that looked exactly like a vintage baseball card. We are considering releasing our next record the same way, and producing cards for all of our back catalog for people to collect.”
The Apollo Proxy: When the big-voiced singer-songwriter, Wes Speight, wrote his latest tune, “Gold Mind,” he knew he had something he and his band could stand behind. So they recorded the song live in a Tacoma studio both as a track and as a live video. And, instead of releasing an EP or LP, the group decided to just release the single and use the video as part of the resume for summer festival applications. “It worked for us getting into Folklife,” Speight says. And just may lead to more projects, too.