Mar 8, 2014

Bummers… a lesson in indie rock “success”

First you’re going to need a manager and a booking agent. Then a publicist and most likely a lawyer. After signing away 50% of any future earnings its time to pay out of pocket recording an album. Once said album is recorded its time to pitch it to record labels, who if even remotely interested, will make superficial tweeks to garner more points… or you can be Bummers.

 

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Bummers are a band from Columbus, Ohio and they are good. Not in the overexposed look-at-all-the-weird-instruments-we-play Wesleyan hyperdouche good, but in the organic-band-for-the-fans good. Last night Bummers hosted a SXSW sendoff/fundraising show in the event space at Strongwater, which typically isn’t utilized for much more than art galleries and installations, and despite not having anything even remotely close to a decent PA the aesthetic and layout of the space made for one of the more memorable events I’ve ever attended. So memorable in fact, that I woke up the morning after to write about it in seemingly endless run-on sentences.

 

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In the digital age where bands come and go on a daily basis like a revolving door and as the music industry is reduced to a singles only business model, how or more importantly why do bands break? No one can argue against the fact that its not an industry based on talent, but instead marketability. However, the marketing platforms have changed. The internet gives all bands a relatively level playing field to start, so the payola-based bias of media outlets and radio stations really no longer influence “cool” they only document it. However, it wasn’t until record labels started signing bands simply based on the number of Myspace fans (witnessed this first hand at Epic) that the music industry truly became flacid and incestuous, allowing the indie movement to get some of that money. Unfortunately, the internet has now become this:

 

 

So why do I “like” Bummers so damn much? Because they have created their own social network, a community of music FANS in Columbus, OH.

 

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Unlike Brooklyn, this isn’t a group of unemployed scenesters, or even worse, trust fund bands playing to other bands in a Bushwick warehouse. And no offense to all the amazing people out in Brooklyn doing great shit: Jify at Cameo, Rami at Glasslands, Todd at Market Hotel, Fanelli, Maverick and the crazy fuckers of Shea Stadium and of course RIP 285 Kent. But let’s not kid ourselves, the last band to break out of Brooklyn and is currently experiencing a successful career in music is?

Yeah Yeah Yeahs? TV on the Radio? Grizzly Bear? Maybe X-Ambassadors (formerly RethinkPopMusic artist Ambassadors) recent signing to Interscope via KIDinaKORNER joining everyone’s favorite band Imagine Dragons is the one. But, they don’t even consider themselves from Brooklyn anymore, has it become uncool?

 

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My point is that maybe its time to redefine, or dare I say rethink, what it means to be a successful artist. At the very least its time to take a lesson from Bummers. You MUST be talented, have some sort of creative digital presence but most importantly, create your own real-life social network. A group of young professionals who advocate your brand, are willing to go to a warehouse in Franklinton and actually PAY money for your art. And when said art and social network results in a couple hundred people, all over the age of 21, crowd surfing to Wooly-Bully in order to send you off to SXSW in style, I consider that a fucking success.

 

 

I’m really pulling for these guys at SXSW and have given them a healthy dose of what’s its really like down there for bands. There aren’t record execs wandering the streets of Austin looking to sign talented bands. Instead they host their own SXSW showcases in a desperate search for new revenue streams. But honestly, it doesn’t even matter. In my modest opinion, Bummers are the indie rock pride of Columbus, OH and all of RethinkPopMusic is appreciative that they agreed to play our showcases. And as soon as they’re done going toe-to-toe with some of the most talented bands in the country, they’ll be welcomed home by a real social network… hopefully now just a little bit bigger.

 

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