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There was once a time when music business deals were made for the sake of music, not the other way around. When people worked predominantly on their word and did not place ultimate power in a signature on a contract.
While it’s safe to assume that, for many bourgeoning bands today, the era of valuing handshakes over Hancocks in music seems prehistoric (if it registers at all), consider the possibilities of bands in 2012 that still judge a relationship’s potential not solely on politics and money, but on good old-fashioned personality and trust.
Thinking this way, as long as it’s not done naively so, will take you places. It certainly has for Atlanta five piece O’Brother.
Through living out this philosophy, the band has toured nationwide with established acts a handful of times, had Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra jump onboard for production of their full length debut Garden Window, and joined forces with NYC label Triple Crown Records. Yes, they actually put pen to paper for Triple Crown, but only after the label was given positive referrals by everyone they asked.
With the above-mentioned principles ingrained deep in the band’s psyche, it should come as no surprise that the guys think the music business is going to have to eventually start over from scratch. Independent musicians would see benefits in many places if this were to happen, but O’Brother points to a flourishing of creative marketing ideas as the advantage they’re most excited about, and let us in on some of the tactics they’ve used in the past.
For one, the band left a webcam up and running in their basement during the entire time they were writing for the new album, Garden Window. Sometimes the audio was on, other times off, but it gave fans the opportunity to watch the band create in their natural environment. The power of this secret portal into a band’s creative process is highly underrated, and can be incorporated into your marketing strategy with nothing but a webcam and a Ustream account.
They also released Garden Window video teasers on a weekly basis during the month leading up to the album’s unveiling, each featuring a montage of footage they collected on tour and remixed samples of audio from the then unreleased record. O’Brother has achieved this beginning-end connectivity with fans through other means too, such as keeping them in the loop throughout the design process of their album artwork by posting every phase on their website.
Recently, they’ve begun experimenting with street teams to promote their shows on location before the band arrives to play. The band provides a form for potential street teamers to apply on their website and usually accepts a few. It is then a street teamer’s job to hang flyers in high traffic areas and send pictures of them back to the band’s Gmail. If all obligations are fulfilled, said street teamer gets to head bang at the local O’Brother show for free. This process is very easy to setup, and could help your band make a dent in town before you ever show up.
The largest takeaways here are that, at the end of the day, your success as a band will largely be determined by your work ethic--they drove through the night from DC in order to make our session on time, and were still early!-- the quality of people you work with and the relationship you maintain with your fans. O’Brother’s strength in all areas proves they take their profession seriously, and if their trajectory holds true, they’ll be playing much larger rooms on future tours. Watch them deliver blistering performances of “Sputnik” and "Lo” off Garden Window in the player above, and check them out in a city near you if you like what you hear!
"Sputnik" | "Lo"
Recorded: February 17th, 2012 at Strewnshank Studio in Charlestown, MA
Recording engineered & mixed by: Joe Mahoney
Video direction & editing by: Joe Mahoney
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