Strippers, T-Shirts, Dubplates & Discount Stores
How do you promote a band or independent label at a time when most of the music industry is wallowing in the wake of a depression caused by the global financial crisis, sales are plummeting, piracy is rampant and new technology is changing the way business can and should be conducted? It’s a question aspiring musicians and industry professionals have to face – especially since recession seems to have little impact on the number of hopefuls trying to make it big.
Factors like these have encouraged a lot of people to adopt a more creative approach to promotion, and to search for alternate means of distributing and selling records – or, quite simply, to find other sources of income to supplement revenue from concerts and record sales.
Rock Hard Power Spray are known for their penchant for rocking with certain parts of the male anatomy out, and also for launching their career with a carefully planned on-stage sex scandal involving a stripper. They landed on the front page of the Danish tabloid newspaper Ekstra Bladet long before they landed a record deal.
Their no-frills, aggressive and melodic hard rock and carefree, confident attitude sealed them a deal ith the major label Universal, who released their debut album “Commercial Suicide”. At the same time, the band launched a collection of T-shirts featuring not only the band’s name in huge letters, but also a very sexy, very rock’n’roll female silhouette that reminded people of how they first heard of the band. All of a sudden it seemed that practically every Dane was wearing the T-shirts, perhaps hoping to claim a vicarious slice of the band’s fast-lane lifestyle. Sales of the T-shirts dwarfed those of “Commercial Suicide”, but the T-shirts wouldn’t have been popular if it hadn’t been for the Rock Hard boys’ cool image and high-energy tunes. This is home-made synergy in action, straight out of the rehearsal rooms and into high-street fashion boutiques.
Far, far away from the bright stage lights that engulf rock stars, in the deepest and darkest recesses of Copenhagen clubs, is where we are most likely to find dubstep artist Obeah – also known as DJ 2000F, party promoter from the OHOI! crew, and as Frederik Birket-Smith, co-founder of Kraken Recordings. Obeah is undoubtedly the leading Danish exponent of the dubstep sound that originated in Croydon in South London and has rapidly become a global phenomenon. This music, with its thundering basslines, cavernous reverbs and ultra-dark mood, doesn’t easily lend itself to traditional means of promotion like mainstream radio play, chart shows and music videos. Instead, artists like Obeah employ dubstep culture’s own particular method of promoting new records.
“Dubstep, grime and drum’n’bass are different to other genres,” Birket-Smith explains. “They come out of the dubplate culture that originated in reggae. You supply the right people with a dubplate (dubplates are individually produced acetate records, that allow DJs to play records no one else has) prior to the release to build hype around the record. Dubstep is basically a trainspotting culture, so that’s what we’re working with.”
“It’s all about timing and the right contacts. First, you need to know which DJs will like your particular track. Pick the right ones and it’ll be played at raves around the world, keeping ravers guessing who’s behind that massive bassline until, when the hype is at its peak, you release it to the public on 12” vinyl.”
Give the people what they didn’t know they wanted
Much like dubstep, world music is usually considered a niche genre. However, Copenhagen-based band Klezmofobia, who play a rock-infused version of traditional Jewish klezmer, have turned their vibrantly melodic music – equal parts melancholia and raucous partying – into something of a phenomenon in their home country. They sold 20,000 copies of their debut album “Tantz!” – which is enough for a gold album in Denmark despite it not being sold in ordinary record shops.
Klezmofobia signed with Tiger Music, a label founded by discount store chain Tiger, which sells its releases exclusively in its own stores. “We jumped at the chance when it presented itself,” says Bjarke Kolerus, Klezmofobia clarinettist. “We sent in a demo, and then recorded, mixed, and mastered the album in record time once Tiger Music gave us the go-ahead. Of course, we had discussed the pros and cons of being sold between pencil sharpeners and mugs, but we decided it would be better than ending up as a niche band. We weren’t interested in making a lot of money. We wanted the visibility that Tiger’s concept offered.”
Klezmofobia are now taking their music out into the world, starting with a tour of Germany and Austria. Just like the boys from Rock Hard Power Spray and Kraken Recordings, they’re crossing borders, both geographical and within the music industry.
Text: Jesper Buhl
Photography: RAW FORMAT