In this day and age where we are bombarded with massive amounts of information on a daily basis it can sometimes be overwhelming when trying to wade through the media deluge. From a musical standpoint this plethora of information is a double-edged sword. While sites like Reverbnation, Bandcamp, Sutros, and YourListen are great places for fledgling artists to showcase their music, the sheer volume of artists doing so can make it difficult to distinguish yourself or your band from other artists. So, what can artists or bands do to get their art heard through all the noise? The answer comes from an unlikely but innovative source.
Since the 1960s Alabama has been a hotbed for Rock & Roll and R&B. The world renowned FAME Studios put the hamlet of Muscle Shoals on the map attracting such Rock and R&B luminaries as The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and a young Gregg Allman cut his teeth in The Shoals as a session guitarist. Rock & Roll and R&B have a long and storied history in Alabama and the only thing that could trump these musical genres is sports. Alabama, being a state with no major professional sports teams, the pinnacle of sports fanaticism lies with the two major universities The University of Alabama and Auburn. Utilizing these two hallowed traditions of Alabama is an intrepid start up called Fancastle who sells Alabama college apparel and accessories, but their approach to marketing is incredibly innovative and forward thinking. Many artists and musicians could learn a thing or two from Fancastle’s business model.
Knowing that music and sports are important to most Alabamans, Fancastle decided to combine them in a natural but yet untapped way in order to draw customers to their site: School Fight Songs. Fancastle had some school fight songs recorded and then posted them to sites like YourListen in order to increase traffic to their site and guess what? It worked. Turns out there were more than a few Alabama collegiate sports fans who frequented music sites and all they needed to find Fancastle was a little school spirit on a site that they were familiar with. Contrary to popular belief, music lovers and sports fans are not exclusive entities (just look at the phenomena of adding sports logos to the Grateful Dead “Steal Your Face”).
Now I know what some of you cats are thinking out there: “Fight songs? That’s kind of cheesy, man.” Well, that may be so, but fight songs are also rousing compositions that stir up a lot of emotions and emotions often lead to strong feelings that in turn can lead to sales of some kind or at least drum up interest. And it doesn’t have to be fight songs. Musicians have long known that a few tactfully placed covers can win an audience over into digging the original music. Only with Fancastle’s model your audience is the entire Internet. The cover could be a clever rendition of a popular TV theme song or perhaps a tongue and cheek mock up of the latest Pop song. Whatever it is it should create a buzz that can then be used to point the public toward the band’s music.
There are more artists and bands today than ever before and this means that bands and artists must perpetually innovate when it comes to doing things independently without the help of major labels. As a musician and a music journalist I often hear artists lamenting that they just can’t make enough money to sustain a touring act. With the increase in indie artists and the constant paper chase of funds that every band goes through, musicians and management alike need to look outside the musical sphere in order to gain insight on how to make an independent band feasible. While some may see business tactics like this as some kind of corporate sell out, it is really quite the contrary. It is tactics like the one modeled by Fancastle that will allow indie artists to compete with and possibly bring down the corporate, tyrannical machine that is the modern record industry.