Today I spent an amazing hour talking with Brendan from SpinART Records, about how hard it is for the kind of music we both like to break out in the United States these days. Media and college radio are into really quirky arty stuff and a straight forward rocker like Joel Plaskett does not seem to be able to get a lot of traction with key media support.
Note to cooler than me readers. Joel is, increasingly, in Halifax, considered to be a pretty mainstream act. That is a view that amuses me no end. Joel is pretty out there when the mainstream is still defined for the masses as somewhere between Faith Hill and Hillary Duff. Canada has had an odd run of 15 years of country rock, rock, rock rock, and rawk band dominating the Canadian (content) charts. Big Sugar through to Tragically Hip. This is a Canadian phenomena that has no equivalent in the USA. Tragically Hip harken from the early Hootie and Black Crows era, and that type of rock dead and rotted in the USA.
I would argue that Joel is not in fact particularly commercial, by the simple argument that if he was, a major would have signed him and he would have records out all over the USA. But no, he continues to tough it out as an indie, and has not gotten serious US support.
Anyway, Brendan has been marketing for SpinART for years and years. We talked about Joel because we both love his music but really, Joel was the case study, in how hard it is right now to break the US. He feels that indie pop rock is not marketable right now, and that unless some key media in the US decide that Joel is their guy, that its a sisyphean task to try and break him on an indie budget. The key is touring, touring touring. Regional touring, well, he says it does not work. If you have to focus on one market, he says, Boston to Philly means nothing, because the only media that matters is in New York. San Fransisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, are all important. But to build a fan base, through touring, means 200 clubs, on rotation, for 150 bucks a night, for two years.
And of course, right now, getting a Visa means regular trips to the USA are difficult for cash strapped indie bands. It is simply too damn expensive and dicy to wait for Homeland Security to let you come in to play that $150.00 show.
I have a lot to think about…