Selective Listening: Notes from the desk of the General Manager, August 2015.
Now that’s what we call a BM*!
Because I have a very TOP LEVEL and (let’s just say…) incisive
understanding of the contents of my email inbox, I was recently made aware of
an interesting and modest experiment in music distribution put together by a
musical trio from Minneapolis called The Hand, whose members have all done or
still do time in other bands and whose mean age is 46 (approximately 750 in
band years, and near-certain assurance of their lifelong anonymity). You can
read all about it yourself here. And,
this thing is interesting for a bunch of reasons, not least of which is the
following description, which, to me, seems like a pretty good raison d’être for any band or any record label still standing, and one which
we’d unabashedly steal or co-opt were we not, at some root, dna-type level,
constitutionally unable to full-stop commit to anything so definite and old
guard as a mission statement.
It goes like this:
“we promise to never put up anything we don’t think is worth $4,
and to try not to be boring and/or behave like “professional
musicians” with a “career” (because we’re not and we don’t). you
promise to not….i dunno, be an asshole about the whole thing.”
Not at all coincidentally (because it was only his email to me on
the subject which managed to disrupt my usual laser-ish focus on important
business-related matters here in the professional music business), I am
familiar with one of the folks responsible for this thing: it’s our old friend
Zak Sally! Zak is probably best known to you for playing bass in Low for 10 or
12 years. He is further known to me as one of those people who provide plain
evidence of my own laziness in way that is frustratingly difficult to ignore
(and I have tried…). In addition to his time spent in Low, and doing stuff with
The Hand, he’s also a cartoonist, a comics art professor, runs his own small
publishing company, and
put together an upcoming 2-day festival of independent culture called Autoptic. All
this in addition to being a parent, spouse, and exceptionally solid dude. I’m
sure there’s more, but I already feel badly enough about myself.
Relatedly! Low, the other very excellent MN-based band mentioned
above (whose records it is our good fortune to release unto the world bearing
the Sub Pop imprimatur of occasional quality), have a top-notch, BJ Burton-produced
new album called Ones and Sixes, coming out in September. We have
released a song or songs (who knows?) from this record as clear proof of that
aforementioned top-notch-ed-ness. Please listen, love, buy, stream, or
otherwise consume, won’t you?
But I digress mid-digression…
What I’m going to go ahead and charitably refer to as my point
here is that a good business model, like the one that The Hand put together, is
increasingly difficult to find. Why, even seasoned music professionals, like
those who I’m told work here at Sub Pop Records, occasionally falter. And
here’s where a couple of illustrative examples might fit nicely:
- As it happens and in spite of what we recall as countless
magazine articles on the great, cresting popularity of the cupcake trend of the
recent past, people are largely unwilling to pay $15.98 for a cupcake with a
download code for a full album of mp3s, and this is especially true, to a
degree that borders on discriminatory, if your company does not just outright
excel at baking or food safety standards compliance.
- Same with sliders!
- Though nearly every single software developer who has ever
cold-called and then set up a meeting with us [or… my boss, which I then had to
attend when she bailed for more interesting or relevant uses of her time,] has
practically, though not exactly, in so many words, GUARANTEED us that just
having an app, regardless of what that app might do, is a disruptive,
game-changing, fucking RAINMAKER, we have come to learn that there are
shockingly few people interested in GrungeSquish-ing a selfie at $1.29 a pop.
- Suffice it to say that we were profoundly surprised to learn,
only after pouring great, pornographic sums of money into the much-ballyhooed
new SAP streaming service for MIDI-fied music, that today’s savvy music consumers
expect or even demand more than one album from the catalog of such a streaming
service. Further suffice it to say that SAP still seems marginally more
interesting than Pono.
As a company which has overtly (for a carefree, golden time before
the Business Affairs Dept. noticed…) declared ourselves “Going Out of Business
Since 1988,” it’s probable we’re not anyone’s first source of insight on how to
navigate the complicated mess of the music business ca. right about now. That’s
probably for the best and anyway, who cares?
As long as there are outfits like The Hand coming up with great,
innovative BMs (and we occasionally wake up long enough to steal their ideas),
it’s alright. We can have our cupcake and listen to it, too.
“BM,” of course, I mean to evoke “Business Model.”
Sub Pop’s Small Bounty of Record Store Day Treasure
We are, once again, participating in the frenzied, let’s-get-our-economy-back-on-track holiday tradition known among vinyl collectors, music fanatics, and eBay flippers as Record Store Day’s Black Friday, for which we (and other record labels and artists) come up with very cool and very limited releases to be sold exclusively at independent record retailers.
On November 29th, Sub Pop (hey, that’s us) will release two limited-edition Black Friday exclusives: Josh Tillman’s score to the forthcoming short film The History of Caves, and a split 7” featuring Low’s popular rendition of Rihanna’s megahit “Stay” and Shearwater’s take on Frank Ocean’s “Novacane.” Please find track listing details for both releases below.
The History of Caves is the directorial debut of photographer and filmmaker Emma Elizabeth Tillman, and it will premiere later this year on Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes. Josh Tillman’s (spoiler alert: he is Father John Misty!) haunting, spare instrumental score spans 10 tracks, all of which are featured on this limited-edition LP. The album is limited to 2,000 copies.
Labelmates Low and Shearwater each contribute what might be considered, in some circles, improbable covers of popular songs for this split 7” single. After performing a crowd-favorite live version of Rihanna’s “Stay” at the Pitchfork Music Festival this past July, Low recorded a studio version at Sacred Heart in Duluth, MN. Low’s version of the pop ballad has been available digitally since mid-September and follows in the wake of the band’s March 2013, Jeff Tweedy-produced album The Invisible Way. Shearwater’s new album Fellow Travelers is out November 26, 2013, and on it the band performs re-imagined songs by bands they have toured with over the years, including Folk Implosion, St. Vincent, Wye Oak, Xiu Xiu, and Coldplay among others. Unfettered by the operating principle of Fellow Travelers (and inviting future tour dates together) Shearwater recorded their own gauze-wrapped, undulating version of Frank Ocean’s “Novacane” for this single. Low’s proceeds will benefit Rock for Kids (www.rockforkids.org), while Shearwater’s will benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center (www.splcenter.org). This 7” is limited to 3,500 copies.
Both releases will also be available digitally, so you MP3 purists can have yours, too.
Sub Pop is very happy to be able to share with you Low’s new video for “Plastic Cup” directed by Ryley Fogg. You can watch the video in the embedded player.
We’re also pleased to announce screenings of Low Movie (How to Quit Smoking) all over the United States this summer. The film follows the band’s entire career and relationship with director, Philip Harder. For twenty years, we made music videos and short films together, filming on ice, in railroad yards, and in rapidly disintegrating rooms.
So far, screenings have been scheduled in the cities below. You can see the full list of screenings and ticketing links here, but make sure to check back often as cities are still being added.
Iowa City, IA – Duluth, MN – Philadelphia, PA – Washington, DC – Chicago, IL Harrisburg, PA – Tulsa, OK – Omaha, NE – Seattle, WA – Grand Rapids, MI Cleveland, OH – New York, NY – Hartford, CT – San Francisco, CA – Arcata, CA Los Angeles, CA – Washburn, WI – Auburn, NY – Columbia, SC – Boston, MA – Madison, WI
Low have also just announced two shows in the southeast in September. Tickets for both shows are on sale on Friday, June 14. You can also get more information about each here.
Sept. 5 – Mercy Lounge – Nashville, TN
Sept. 6 – Terminal West – Atlanta, GA
Don’t forget about Low’s shows next week with Mike Doughty, Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival and July shows with Swans. They return to Europe in August and November. Details below.
June 14 – Red Star – Duluth, MN
June 15 – Rock the Garden – Minneapolis, MN
June 17 – Sixth and I Synagogue – Washington, DC
June 18 – Altar – Pittsburgh, PA
June 19 – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
June 20 – Spaceland Ballroom – Hamden, CT
June 21 – World Cafe Live – Philadelphia, PA
June 22 – Solid Sound Festival @ Mass Moca – North Adams, MA
July 18 – Old National Centre – Indianapolis, IN
July 19 – The Majestic – Detroit, MI
July 20 – Pitchfork Music Festival @ Union Park – Chicago, IL
Aug. 16 – Pukkelpop @ Kiewet Hasselt Festival Grounds – Hasselt, Belgium
Aug. 17 – Green Man Festival – Glansuk, Wales
Aug. 19 – Cyprus Avenue – Cork, Ireland
Aug. 20 – Whelan’s – Dublin, Ireland
Aug. 21 – Empire Music Hall – Belfast, Ireland
Aug. 30 – Big Top Chautauqua – Bayfield, WI
Sept. 5 – Mercy Lounge – Nashville, TN
Sept. 6 – Terminal West – Atlanta, GA
Sept. 7 – Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, NC
Nov. 4 – Sala Petrassi: Auditorium Parco della Musica – Rome, Italy
Nov. 5 – Teatro Puccini – Florence, Italy
Nov. 6 – Teatro Martinitt – Milan, Italy
Nov. 7 – Bogen F – Zurich, Switzerland
Nov. 8 – Le Bourg – Lausanne, Switzerland
Nov. 9 – Manufaktur – Schorndorf, Germany
Nov. 11 – Stadsschouwburg – Groningen, Netherlands
Nov. 12 – Lux – Nijmegen, Netherlands
Nov. 13 – Het Depot – Leuven, Belgium
Nov. 14 – Junction – Cambridge, United Kingdom
Nov. 15 – Rescue Rooms – Nottingham, United Kingdom
Nov. 16 – Queens Social Club – Sheffield, United Kingdom
Nov. 18 – Anglican Cathedral – Liverpool, United Kingdom
Nov. 19 – Queens Hall – Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Nov. 20 – Brudenell Social Club – Leeds, United Kingdom
Nov. 21 – Arts Centre – Norwich, United Kingdom
Nov. 22-24 – ATP Festival – Camber Sands, United Kingdom
Today is finally the day in which Low’s brand new and true-to-form, very excellent 10th full-length record, The Invisible Way, is available in record bins, virtual or otherwise! We’re all celebrating at Sub Pop HQ by blasting it loudly from our individual cubicles. Join us.
March 19th, the release date for Low’s new album The Invisible Way, is still a few long, tedious, new Low record-less weeks away. A confusing, depressing journey through time and space for any Low fan drowning in anticipation (we can certainly relate). Well, we’re in the business of throwing Low fans who are drowning in anticipation a (proverbial) life preserver in the form of “So Blue”, a new track off the forthcoming full-length.
While we’re talking Low stuff, it seems worth reminding you that if you pre-order The Invisible Way from Sub Pop you’ll receive a bonus CD, The Visible End, which features three demos of tracks from the new album and an instrumental version of the song “Clarence White”—these are while supplies last of course.
Lastly, Low are creating a video for the song “So Blue”, and mean to do so by compiling photos taken by you, Low fans, inspired by the song. So, listen to the song, upload a photo to Twitter or Instagram and use the tag #LowSoBlue and tag the band @lowtheband. You can also submit photos to Low’s Facebook page. We’re all very excited to see the variety of interpretation and creativity from y’all. Photos need to be submitted by March 12th in order to be considered.