Monday, February 09, 2009

New Groove Armada album.. free?

Hmmmm. Where will the music world go next?

It guess it's not really even a question now... it's up on some "next" ish right at the moment... we're mainly just waiting to see how it turns out.

It appears that beyond the MASSIVE (i.e. Madonna) pretty much no one is going to sell records in a typical way anymore... not because they don't want to... but because the whole infrastructure that makes the recording industry work is gone. No more release dates... no more buying $20 CDs at Barnes & Noble... that era is changing rapidly. Most people are going to download a couple songs or singles (as opposed to albums), or as the trend has been they will steal the songs. Certain advances in the way digital media is distributed, in the last few years, has changed everything... and more and more people download whatever they want whenever they want... so how will bands make a living? What does "the future of music" look like?

It appears that the future of music is... free? I mean we've seen it from Radiohead, NIN, Girl Talk etc... but those guys really wanted you to BUY it not just take it. Other artists like Babyshambles and The Libertines offered everything except their actual albums for free (including demos, different recordings, live stuff, acoustic stuff, covers etc) creating a RABID fan base that was desperate to buy their records because of the trust (and separation between "artist" and "fan").

Groove Armada are not the first to approach the "free" music model. Over the course of their acclaimed career they've written a lot of amazing songs, and surely sold a lot of records so... why free? And what makes this different? Well the first thing that distinguishes them is there is no option to buy these new songs (as of yet, there will be soon), at the moment they're just free! Unlike their predecessors in the new digital music realm they aren't asking for you to do anything other than listen and enjoy. EVEN MORE WILD is that they really WANT you to share these songs! The B-Live site that the songs are on allows you to share with others via different platforms by creating a profile which is different from almost everything I've ever seen...

It was certainly a bold decision on their part. But what what about you? What does it mean for you the consumer to be downloading and sharing music like this?

I know for a lot of people (especially blogger dorks like myself) the commercial aspect is the first thing to raise a flag (I grew up punk rock, which is sort of like being Catholic... you feel guilty about everything lol)... but consider this... would you rather steal an album (as many do)? Or have Bacardi pay for it and you get it for free? Personally, I'd rather sleep at night knowing that bands I like are going to be around in the future because they have financial support be it from you, me, or Bacardi.

Now, let me tell you before we go any further, I'm not getting anything out of this deal. Bacardi isn't sending of cases of rum my way (or anything else), nor are Groove Armada doing anything for me. So I'm not in anyone's pocket. But for those of us who might balk at the idea of a corporate sponsored record... Is this really all that different from companies licensing tracks for commercials? Should you be pissed that Budweiser had Santogolod, Daft Punk, and the Chemical Brothers songs in very very very high profile campaigns? Not at all. More power to them frankly... wanting to get your music out to people who will enjoy it isn't sinister at all... Record companies are corporations and it looks to be that moving forward more corporations will be involved in putting out records. The music is made for the sake of art, and enjoyment, but it's gotta pay at the end of the day.. electronic music, is primarily played at clubs. So frankly it's a pretty smart pairing (I don't think some, or most, of you would be ok with this if it were sponsored by, say, Halliburton or something lol).

I think going forward we're going to see more and more bands giving tracks or albums away free, not as a gimmick to get press, but because the music is making it's way to people who aren't paying anyway. And like Groove Armada say below there is a distinct different between sharing music with people and free disposable music... think of how many times you've chucked a cassette or CD outside a concert? They say they're doing this for the love of the music and for their fans.

In the "new model" music industry money will be made from touring, DJing, merchandise (did you see the GA shoes?), commercials, and other types of new media. Albums will, presumably not disappear, but rather be more exciting than most are now! Meaning that we'll start to see more 1970's-esque approach to album artwork, posters... and freebies inside of CDs or content from websites, free videos, memberships to forums... via all the typical media (vinyl/CD) and new media (individual websites and not necessarily iTunes, stuff like USB album bracelets, small collectible USB statues and stuff like that). Imagine how different things would have been if Pharrell Williams' self titled album had been free BUT he'd offered limited edition vinyl USB figures like the picture on the cover of his album?

Frankly? That sounds very exciting to me. I'm all about paying $20+ dollars for a vinyl album with a link to an MP3 copy of the album, along with access to a forum and free content and a poster... or the option to purchase a collectors version of the album for more (like Radiohead/Portishead/Oasis did with the box set versions of their albums). The generation who has grown up downloading will probably WANT physical albums at some point, and my generation (at least a portion of the market) has been leaning more towards buying real albums recently as the quality of them has gone up a little (be it vinyl or CD). Attention to quality is something that disappeared right around the beginning of the first P2P era... hopefully that's coming back.

So... whoooo... that was a more attention than we normally give to any album or project but... new stuff like this raises new questions and we need to give serious thought to how we consumers are changing the record industry. The days are gone of massive advances for new bands, people are changing how they handle publishing, certain formats are getting killed off, bands are being forced to take day jobs instead of touring the world, and amazing musicians (like JDSY) aren't getting the press the deserve because too many people are downloading stuff for free! So please think about the bands you love because, while I'm all about sharing music, at some point you're culpable for what happens! In the meantime let's enjoy and appreciate these nuggets that Groove Armada are sharing with us :)

On to the music...
Groove Armada Free EP from Bacardi B-Live

Here's a little press and background on this new EP...
"“It’s good to be back in Rio,” sighs Andy Cato, who just flew in today from his house in the south of France by-passing the grim winter weather of London completely.

Rio is the latest stop-off on Groove Armada’s year-long follow-the-sun tour of the world’s party capitals with BACARDI® B-LIVE® in 2008. From a sun-drenched Miami, where they shared a stage with Dave Navarro, Deep Dish and Cedric Gervais among others, to a summer gig in Athens, where they showcased hot tipped talent The Nextmen. Then there was an amazing event in Mexico, where they collaborated with one of Mexico’s biggest local acts, Kinky, and introduced the Groove Armada dancing carnival girls, and now a gig on Sugar Loaf Mountain with hotly tipped UK talent Cicada,. “It’s the first DJ set we’ve ever had to go to by cable car,” laughs Andy.

“There’s a commonality with Groove Armada and Brazil in that we both like big bass,” says Tom Findlay. It may be the reason Brazil has always been receptive to Groove Armada, who had a massive hit here with the Grammy nominated “Superstylin” back in 2001, while their track “My Friend” from the same Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub) album was the soundtrack to a long-running soap opera.

“There are going to be several exclusives tonight,” reveals Andy of the up-coming gig. “A couple of tunes off our new album, which we’re going to debut. And there’s an ongoing tradition in the B-LIVE shows of artists remixing each other. That’s happening with Cicada and The Twelves, so we’ve got two remixes in there.”

It’s the collaborative angle to the BACARDI B-LIVE events, along with the sunshine and glorious locations and long tradition of live party music, that has really attracted Groove Armada to the world tour.

“We had a really nice lunch with Pepin from the Bacardi family in Miami and we got the whole overview on what it’s all about. There was a fellow called Facundo Bacardi who used to drive around in his car playing music to the people of Cuba, this is something that resonates with the whole Bacardi party spirit out in the streets. With us being involved in our own festival we like to think our live shows are a real sort of carnival, it feels like a really nice match, a good fit,” comments Tom.

The BACARDI B-LIVE events have not only given Groove Armada the chance to be musical directors, hand mixing the best of the local talent with global names flown in especially, but they’ve also been able to work with the cream of local talent.

And it’s a collaborative vibe that’s flowing into their new music, soon to be available through a revolutionary new sharing mechanic created with BACARDI. “We’ve been recording the new record in France, where I’ve moved recently,” says Andy, joking that his house has been dubbed Chateau Cato by the band. “We were there with the live band and we decided finally to record with them rather than just perform with them after we’d done it. It’s something we should have done a long time ago because there’s been a vibe that’s sounded pretty special.”

“Absolutely!” says Tom, equally fired up about the new material that’s been emerging from the sessions. “Usually, when we start gigging an album, about six months in it really starts cooking, so this time we’re going out there and the vibe’s already great. There’s something amazing about sticking a load of musicians in a room. You get something a bit special, which is definitely what this album’s going to be.”

“It’s a departure for us,” says Andy, “but we’re quite fond of departures and fresh starts. It’s actually sounding like the best stuff we’ve done for a long time. Possibly ever I think.” And they’re quick to credit BACARDI with the way things are going (and not just for the “inspirational crate of BACARDI” that turned up on the doorstep of Chateau Cato to get the party started).

“Just the press attention around the deal was amazing,” says Tom. “It was definitely a big story and for lots of reasons it’s been seen as a really innovative deal.”

“It feels as though it’s put us back in the vanguard,” adds Andy. “We were one of the first dance bands, along with Massive Attack, to do albums that were dance music and we took things forward playing dance music with a live band. And I think now with the mini album and the way we’re going to release that, the whole BACARDI hook-up has put us right back in the forefront.”

And apart from making it possible for them to perform in front of thousands of global fans over the year, BACARDI has also helped Groove Armada reach millions through their radio shows. “Groove Armada and radio shows have gone together for a long time,” explains Andy. “We seem to have taken on the role of stand-in for Pete Tong with his Essential Selection, so we’re getting to the worldwide hot-seat there. It’s been good fun to go back to doing shows based around the musical activities of all the areas we’ve been to, submitting track ideas, getting track suggestions from people who are out there on the ground. In this case up in the Favelas, seeing what’s going down.”

“It’s been a bit like Wicker’s World,” laughs Tom of the BACARDI B-LIVE show on Global Radio, which went out in countries as diverse as New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, Germany and Brazil.

You can tell by Andy and Tom’s buoyancy that it’s been a year to remember, but the BACARDI relationship is far from over yet with perhaps the best saved till last. “It’s been really great to take the Groove Armada circus to places we couldn’t have gone to were it not for this deal,” says Tom. “And when you do something as innovative as this, you don’t really know how it’s going to go. It’s been quite a journey.”

And the journey continues in 2009, when BACARDI will be chartering a train called “The BACARDI Express” – already dubbed “the Groove Train” - across Australia loaded with musicians and fans for three days of cross-country collaboration, starting at Melbourne and ending in Sydney. “presumably with some BACARDI mojito samples,” says Andy.

And then of course, there’s the groundbreaking new tracks the guys have been working on. Ground breaking not just in terms of the music, which is infused with influences from everywhere the guys have been with BACARDI over the year, but in terms of how that music is going to get out there to the fans across the world through an innovative new sharing mechanic.

“I think from the beginning of the BACARDI deal we seem to have been turning some heads and worrying some other heads in the music industry which is a good thing. I think the sharing mechanic is going to do a lot more than that. I think there’s lots of people trying to fight this but, we’re embracing it and as a result, I think it’s going to make some waves"

And here's a little more... it repeats in parts but some of it lets you know more about how the album came to be...

Looking back over the year, how do you feel about the BACARDI® deal?

Tom: Well, there’s been a lot of press attention, particularly around the time we announced the deal with BACARDI. It was definitely a big story and for lots of good reasons it’s been seen as a really innovative deal, and the perfect deal for us at that time. It has really raised our profiles.

Andy: It feels as though it’s put us back in the vanguard again: we were one of the first dance bands, along with Massive Attack to do albums that were dance music and we took things forward a bit playing dance music with a live band, and I think now with the Mini Album and the way we’re going to release that through and innovative new sharing mechanic, the whole BACARDI hook-up has put us right back in the forefront again.

What’s been the highlights of BACARDI® B-LIVE®, events?

Andy: The collaborations. We had a great one in Mexico with Kinky, a band who we’ve made friends with, and hope to keep in touch with. But all the way down the line it’s been nice to bring people who we’ve met over the years, DJing around the world and playing around the world, back into the frame to share the stage.

Tom: We found out about this fellow from the Bacardi family, Facundo Bacardi back in the roaring twenties who used to drive around in his car with a band in the back playing music out to the people of Cuba. That’s something that resonates with us, that whole BACARDI party spirit out in the streets. Being musical directors, we like to think our live shows are a real sort of carnival. It feels like a really nice match, a good fit.

Can you give us some insight into the new mini album?

Andy: The first bit we did in Tom’s basement in London, in N16 to be precise, and there’s lots of kind of crazy synths and we made lots of weird and wonderful noises and came up with ideas. But for the first time, rather than making a record and then going and doing a tour with the band, we actually recorded versions of the songs with the band from the off. We did that in France, my place there, which has become known as “Ch√Ęteau Cato”; excellent name! We had all the boys in there – great vibe, a nice inspirational crate of BACARDI turned up just as we kicked off, and the rest is history.

Tom: Collaborations-wise, there was a lot of us in the studio and lots of hand-clapping. And there were actually a couple of really awful moments when we started singing along, which has now been consigned to the dustbin of history which is good, but we’re starting to look at it now from what’s come out of journeys through Rio, I think there’s been some interesting stuff that’s going to go up on the more dance side end of it.

How do you think the mini album compares to other Groove Armada albums? Has doing the BACARDI B-LIVE round-the-world thing influenced it?

Andy: When we started on this journey, there were certain expectations and ideas, and these things change all the time, because music changes all the time, especially when you get into the writing process of a record, which we’re right in the middle of now. What’s really nice is that there is a flexibility there, to keep changing and to keep innovating and it’s been really great to take the Groove Armada travelling circus to places we couldn’t have gone to were it not for this deal…[the sunshine hotspots of Miami, Athens, Mexico, Brazil…] that whole thing about hooking up with local people and playing a gig in their home town is a great thing. We’ve been working out a way of doing dance music with a band, without kind of sounding fat by combining the instruments and electronics. We’ve played some of the world’s biggest stages, but we’ve never recorded that and got that down, which is crazy really. Now we’ve done it, it’s very exciting – we should have done it a long time ago.

How have you found doing the BACARDI B-LIVE Global Radio shows?

Andy: Groove Armada and radio shows have gone together for a long time. We seem to have taken on the role of official stand-ins for Pete Tong with his Essential Selection, so we’re getting the world-wide hot seat there. So it’s been good fun to go back to doing shows based around the musical activities of all the areas we’ve been to. We’re hosting it, submitting track ideas, getting track suggestions from people who are out there on the ground. In this case up in the Favelas seeing what’s going down, so it’s been real fun to put that together.

Tom: No I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been like Wickers World. I think you can hear it at places like New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, Germany and Brazil.

What’s in store for next year with BACARDI?

Andy: 2009 sees us equipped with what will be the mini album and the new sharing mechanic which launches in January at Midem, so that is pretty big news. And we’ll be off to Australia in March to get on board “The Groove Train”, which involves travelling between Melbourne and Sydney within a three-day period, performing and presumably with plenty of mojitos!

Tom: So yes “The Groove Train”, officially known as BACARDI Express, between Melbourne and Sydney, which is kind of our second home, so it’ll be nice to go back and look up some old friends.

And that's that for now! I hope you all enjoy and please direct everyone you know over to this site for these free songs... I'm really interested to see how many people are downloading and I can track that if they all come through here... enjoy and I'll be back REAL soon with an interview with Commix for their new Fabric mix!


Anonymous said...

This looks SICK!
Will have to get it. Loved Vertigo but have fell out of touch with these guys. I guess a free album is a great way to start my GA kick

Andy Rogers said...

Free? Hope it is! ;) Anyway, hope to hear from anyone soon that they have an album like this and I would love to ask for a copy. ;)