Not everyone likes Enter Shikari, an exuberant "post-hardcore" band of metal and synth melding energy from St. Albans, UK. In fact I am universally laughed at by my friends for paying attention; they think I am living some kind of pathetic throw-back teenage fantasy. But I don't care. No, really, I don't. Most of the time I just storm off, slamming my bedroom door on the way. To show just how much I don't care. Anyway at the risk of raking over old coals I thought that their story highlights some interesting points about the move into digital in a fairly neat and comprehensive way. There are two strands to this:
1.) No record company wanted them. It was just too weird, different and didn't fit into any of the neat demographic slots and sounds beloved of record A&R. It certainly didn't seem to have mainstream appeal. Faced with blanket rejection the band decided to set up their own record label, Ambush Reality. Unlike massively well established Radiohead, or even the Arctic Monkeys who promptly got snapped up by indie label Domino Records (although there was a controversy about EMI distribution), Enter Shikari were just a bunch of guys no one had heard of. They realised that all it would take to get them going was the web, a bit of nous, hard gigging and decent tracks. As the risks in publishing new writers grow, and so do complaints that publishing is becoming an ever more closed shop, then the lesson is clear: get out there and make your market. The internet allows authors as much as bands a space and the tools to have their writing seen (Authonomy, Scribd, blogs, etc etc). Enter Shikari now have a major deal with Warner Music in the US, but retain their independence in the UK. And they have sold a shed load of records. Increasingly, I think, first novels and albums will be found outside the mainstream, with successful examples then getting picked up.
2.) My relationship with this band has often orientated itself around free content. At first I would listen to the Youtube videos, then also on Last.fm and latterly Spotify. When the new album came out the band gave away a download of one of the singles; the music was free to listen to all over the internet, including on the bands own website. I never would have gone and bought the cd of the first album, but I knew the tracks well. Enter Shikari have always made sure their music is seamlessly available everywhere on the web. With no marketing spend, no big reputation and nothing to lose, they had to. After consuming all that free content I was primed for the new release. As well as the basic cd they also released a special bundle comprising premium cd, a signed DVD and a t-shirt for £25. In the knowledge that I will never ever live this down I'll fess up: reader, I bought it. From £0 to £25 via a load of free content. This surely is now the business model of the record industry in a nutshell, be it from ticket sales, t-shirts or a drunken session on iTunes.
In short Enter Shikari can be seen as emblematic of the new music industry. Existing both within and beyond standard business, giving tracks away yet still selling very well, this represents the future of content where everyone ultimately gains. Surrounded as we are by Friday Project style books of blogs and handsome new special editions rolling off the presses what seems like more and more, we in publishing are already well advanced on this journey.
Picture copyright manu_el_o_matics!