I hadn’t really heard the music of Delhi’s popular rock band, Them Clones, before getting a copy of their debut album, love. hate. heroes (EMI, Rs 195). One reason for not having heard them was, of course, the fact that although Them Clones have been a hot act on the gig circuit, I haven’t been to a rock concert in many years, preferring the infinitely more sedentary option of listening to music via downloads and most typically on my mp3 players with the phones stuck deep into my ear canals.
I was quite surprised by the love. hate. heroes CD and it had not much to do with the music. Don’t think I’m knocking their music, though, because it’s good wholesome rock by five chaps who have a pretty big fan following and who have been playing gigs and headlining festivals for many years. Only that I’m leaving the review of love. hate. heroes to my colleague, Indrajit Hazra, who will sooner than later review it in his popular weekly column, Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus. What surprised me about Them Clones’ first album were two things. First, the package included two CDs—one recorded with a dozen songs that the band have put on the album—and the second a blank CD. “Clone This CD,” said a legend on the packaging, “This is a blank CD. Copy our CD. Spread the Music.”
I thought it was a rather cool way for a band to reach its fans. The second part of it was even better. Each CD pack comes with a ‘cloning code’ that you can use on the band’s website where you can enter the emails of three friends and get, in return, a free track to download—a track that’s not on their debut CD.
And once your three friends do the same thing—that is, get on the website and enter three more emails—you get access to even more Them Clones music. Remember chain mails (send this letter to five or six or 10…others and good luck will befall you)? Well, in Them Clones’ case, this is a multiplying chain that actually bears fruit—in the shape of free mp3s.
Download Central has often mentioned bands who routinely put up their music on the net for free downloads—sometimes as a teaser of one or two tracks before the album is released. Only last week, I talked about soul revivalists Fitz and The Tantrums who were giving away their new EP for free on their website. And heavyweights like Radiohead have given away entire albums for free. Well, not free really but when the band put out In Rainbows for downloading it gave you the option of paying whatever you wanted to pay. Or, nothing at all. Even Sony Music put one track, Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, out on Bob Dylan’s official website before his album, Together Through Life, was released.
But putting up music for free isn’t something that’s new. Touring bands do that routinely. If you go to the popular website, Nugs Net, you can get a ‘free stash’ that has full concerts of a host of bands. Some bands, such as Phish, have put up as many as 52 of their shows for free downloading. In addition, many new indie bands use mp3 blogs as a platform to distribute their music—if not full albums—at least pre-release leaks of a track or two. Glaswegian indie-rockers, Frightened Rabbit, are scheduled to release their third studio album next March, but I downloaded live versions of two brilliant tracks ( Living In Colour and Nothing Like You) that they performed for BBC and have distributed on the net.
What sets the innovation (a blank CD and a code to download extra music) by Them Clones is that it goes a notch above spreading the message about a band you like by mere word of mouth. With the blank CD, Them Clones make it easy for you to rip and copy the music and pass it on to a friend. And the multiplier effect of submitting emails of three people on the band’s website is self-evident. In case, you’re wondering about copyright issues, Them Clones’ album is licensed under Creative Commons, which gives a buyer the right to share and even remix the album as long as it is not for commercial purposes.
What is particularly refreshing about the Them Clones approach is its non-gimmicky straightforwardness. In 2002, alternative metal/hard-rock band System of A Down had released an album that was called Steal This Album! That was perhaps inspired by another gimmicky book written by an equally gimmicky man called Abbie Hoffman in 1970, titled Steal This Book! Both were neither free nor could they be stolen easily. With love. hate. heroes, Them Clones offers a potentially effective (and fun) way for bands to market themselves. I think there’s a lesson in that for music companies as well as new bands.
This week’s download reccos:
- Return of the Dead: Jerry-less but with the brilliant Warren Haynes, nearly two hours of tracks from gigs that the Dead played this year.
- Horchata: a brand new track from Vampire Weekend’s new album Contra, DUE OUT IN JANUAR
- Stars of The Lid: John Peel used to like them. A duo that does minimalist music that is quiet and soothing.