Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Strokes Release First Single - For Free?!

Well New York alt-garage-rockers The Strokes have finally given us a glimpse into their first album in five years, Angles, set to drop March 22nd, through the leading single "Under Cover of Darkness". At 2:35 pm EST they started giving it away on their website, for free, in exchange for a subscription to their newsletter/mailing list, and only for 48 hours. As soon as I got back from my physics lab I went and downloaded it and listened to it three times straight.

The first time through I was disappointed because I heard a poppy-upbeat rhythm and a very "marketable" sound. However, I remembered Nick Valensi (one of The Strokes' guitarists) saying that it would be impossible for them to make music that would live up to the expectations that people had after five years of nothing. So I listened to it again and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. I heard a return back to the rhythms and moods of Is This It and I heard awesome guitar harmonies and layers. I heard Casablancas' voice in all its broken splendour and I heard solid riffs and a cool solo. By the third time through I was convinced this was good, and in a way it reminded me of recent stuff by Brand New, Breaking Benjamin, Arctic Monkeys, and Muse: it's become more "marketable" and "commercial" but it has retained all its originality and "alternativeness", the traits which attracted me to that music in the first place. And it's still quality music. A few minutes ago I listened to it again and decided I couldn't wait for the album to drop.

There is, however, a second thing I would like to discuss about this release, and that is The Strokes' (or their manager's or label's) decision to release the single as a free download from their website for 48 hours. To me (and I'm willing to bet the others I know in the pay-what-you-want-or-free boat) this is a brilliant move by the guys. Not only does it reward the most loyal fans, it will also spread the song like wildfire and build massive buzz, more than a month away from release date. Some will say this is a strategy that only works if you're a band as big as The Strokes (or Radiohead, when they decided to let us download In Rainbows on a pay-what-you-want basis). But I think that smaller bands can draw inspiration from this and adapt it to their needs: say you're releasing an LP in a month or two. You spread one song for free across the Internet, as far as you can reach (and if it's any good, others will then spread it for you). Make sure you tell people that this is a single from an upcoming LP. You continue this effort with the same song for a week. Then you stop. You watch how it works, what the response to the track is. You wait another week. Then you release another track and do the same thing. If the response isn't as good as you'd like, delay the release a bit, and repeat with a third track. After another week's wait, promote the release of the album as ardently as you can for a week and release the LP at the end of said week.

I have no idea if the strategy outlined above works or not, but I think I'll be experimenting with a variant of it in a few months' time. In the meantime, check out the above-mentioned single by The Strokes here and let me know what you think. I know there's gonna be positive and negative response, and I've already given my answer. I'd love to know what everyone thinks, though!



1 comment:

  1. Amazing review you've done there. That sounds amazing.looking forward to hear this.