Is there a happy medium? Sure, and I think some of the smaller and medium labels are doing an excellent job of farming quality artists, giving them creative free rein, touring them diligently, and introducing new talent. What the big guys should have been doing all along. I frequently look to a label like Merge for inspiration, speaking personally. I love their bands, I buy their records and CDs, and I read their book "Our Noise" and wanted to immediately climb in my car and go on tour.
The 3WSC (3-Way Singles Club) glances backward to the glory days of vinyl singles, when upstart labels would offer mail-order single-of-the-month clubs. Every month, you could unwrap a brand new slab of black wax. There was mystery, a sense of discovery, and the cachet of being in the know about the latest sounds. The 3WSC is a contemporary variant, using the internet as its post office and digital files as its medium. Artists record brand new songs, sometimes written specifically for the series, and bonus tracks or free downloads pepper things up for listeners keeping track. The motto "3 songs, 3 bands, 3 bucks" encapsulates the basics of the club, though there is the option to subscribe to the 3WSC as a whole (see the sidebar to the right of this column), paying a flat fee of 30 bucks that unlocks the veritable Pandora's Box: to date 33 songs, 4 secret bonus tracks, and the 3 new songs listed in the first paragraph on the way any hour now! As the 3WSC's catalog grows, the per-song investment diminishes. Already, it's below the internet-wide standard of 99 cents per song, if you're of the accountant mindset.
Since last May we've released unheard music from Double Saginaw Familiarity, Joshua Barton, Stargrazer, RxGibbs, Rachel Yezbick, Lost Leaves, Narc Out The Reds, The Playback, The Hat Madder, The Plurals, Terminal Girls, Cavalcade, Frank And Earnest, Jet Lag Superstar, New Venice, Sleeping Timmy with Aly Rose, Flatfoot, Drunken Barn Dance, The Hunky Newcomers, Josh David & The Dream Jeans, Cat Midway, The People's Temple, Jackpine Snag, Nocturnal Aviators In Action, Seth Bernard, Steve Leaf, CrookedSound, Sunil Sawani, Teag & PK, Small Houses featuring Pioneer, Tin Window, Brooks Mosher, and Benoît Pioulard!
Additionally, our second year is shaping up to be even more exciting than the first! We'll kick things off in May with a three-fer from Sylvan Lanes (Matt Milia of Frontier Ruckus performing solo, just prior to the release of their brand new album Eternity Dimming!), Lansing's experimental folk duo Gifts Or Creatures, and Akron, OH-based White Pines (who just issued the marvelous Plume Of Ash E.P. on Yer Bird). That's just the first month! We have plans for great tracks from Calliope, The Break-Ups, The Mind Guards, Racket Ghost, Middleman, Regretters, Caleb Dillon (from the Bob Pollard-approved Starling Electric), Onondaga, and much more to follow over the course of year two!
So there's the ongoing effort to release three new songs per month. There's the subscription deal, which gets more generous the more songs we release. And finally, there's the tongue-in-cheekily dubbed IMF (Independent Musicians Fund), which is where all those 3-dollar download charges and 30-dollar subscriptions go. The IMF is a sacrosanct fund set aside for musicians in need, to help defray the nickle-and-dime costs that can interrupt the flow of creativity. Growing in small increments, the fund has worked its way into the triple digits, and our goal for 2012 is to triple the size of the fund. What altruistic cause our independent panel of judges will choose to grant or loan the contents of the fund to remains unknown even to me (I've excused myself from the panel to avoid any perception of cronyism or conflict of interest); but we'll be getting to know our panelists and discussing more about how your support of the 3WSC feeds back into the musical community over the next 12 months.
It's with extreme gratitude and barely-restrained excitement that I embark on this coming year of music, and it has been so wonderful to have you along for the ride!