Music for nothing and the hits for free

Kitchener rock band gives away its latest album, At the Command of the Blanket Sky, online

  • Four guys in jeans + a school bus + a Stephen King novel + a rooster = one awesome press photo.

Remember when we all thought Radiohead had the shittiest business model ever when they decided to sell In Rainbows for, well, whatever you were willing to pay for it? Proving a good many people wrong, In Rainbows was surprisingly successful and profitable.

Now take the price Radiohead was charging, multiply it by zero and that’s how much you’ll be paying for At the Command of the Blanket Sky, the new album from Kitchener, Ont. rock four-piece Vacuity. You can download it now on their website, Vacuity.net.

“It’s more important that people hear it than that we make a few bucks off it,” guitarist/keyboardist Greg Osborn said by phone last week. “There are philosophical reasons behind it, too. It costs almost nothing for me to copy the file and send it to you, or my grandma, or whoever.”

Vacuity’s sound is something like Radiohead meeting Sonic Youth with maybe a touch of The Doors. But really, they’ve got their own thing going on, and they’re showcasing it on a cross-Canada tour with a Winnipeg date.

The band is using the free album as a way to get their name out, build a fan base and get people to their shows. “Kill the format” is the name of their promotional campaign.

“It’s about the artists and the fans … and not the middle man keeping the business model,” Osborn said.

Vacuity will also be releasing several free EPs online and eventually compiling those EPs into an LP. That too will likely be a free online download from their website.

 

It’s more important that people hear it than that we make a few bucks off it.

Greg Osborn

“It looks like that’s the way the industry is going,” Osborn said. “The whole industry is based on record sales. You take the sales away and so much of it collapses, but at the same time, the artists have been getting ripped off for a really long time.”

Vacuity is a band that is conscious of what’s around them, and that’s certainly reflected in the lyrical and compositional strength of the songs on At the Command of the Blanket Sky.

“Usually when people hear our music they like it, or when they see us at a show they enjoy themselves. We don’t often get booed off stage or have rotten fruit thrown at us,” Osborn said, laughing.

“So the question was, how can we get more people to hear it? And the obvious answer is the Internet. We could put it up for a price, and I’m sure we’d still get some downloads, but we could spread it rapidly if it’s, like, here it is for free, encourage other people to download it. Spread the word.”

Published in Volume 63, Number 25 of The Uniter (March 26, 2009)

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