Saturday, July 26, 2008
The Methadones: Cutting the middleman
Costco does it. Furniture warehouses do it. But seldom do bands do it. Cutting out the middleman is risky business, especially when advertising and promotion is left solely to the band.
Chicago’s most well-known pop punk band (still together), The Methadones, have just released its new split with The Copyrights via Transparent Records, a record label thought up and made up by Dan Schafer of The Methadones (vocals/guitar) and Adam Fletcher (vocals/bass) of The Copyrights.
“We looked at three different record labels to put out the record,” said Mike Byrne, guitarist for The Methadones. “I work for a CD/DVD replication company, so Dan and Adam from the Copyrights were talking about a split for a while.”
The Methadones’ last album, “This Won’t Hurt,” was released under Red Scare Records.
One day at work, Fletcher and Schafer were talking and decided, “Man, we ended up working with these record labels that support us and promote us, but they really don’t do anything more than we could do for ourselves,” said Byrne. “So Dan asked me, ‘Well, could we press the record through your work?’”
The last statement The Methadones received from Red Scare said they sold more CDs than album downloads, thus got the ball rolling.
Byrne’s boss ended up giving the band a really cheap price to press 1,000 CDs. With a good deal, a tight fan base and a bit of confidence, The Methadones decided to completely cut out music’s middleman: The record label.
The Methadones are still going to sell its new split through distribution sites such as Interpunk.com, No Idea Records’ online store, iTunes, independent record stores and of course, Methadones shows.
But aside from label issues, the band still has to record its music somewhere, which is the biggest cost of everything.
“We’re recording at Atlas Studios, where Matt Allison recorded the last two records we did. He’s great. He’s the best person I’ve ever recorded with, he’s real easy to work with, real relaxed,” Byrne said.
Allison recorded the early Alkaline Trio albums as well as the Lawrence Arms’ music and most recently, Less Than Jake.
“He gave us a really good deal too; he helped us out a lot,” Byrne said. “Matt Allison definitely made this possible for us. Even though we got a cheap rate at where I work at, pressing 1,000 CDs costs money and Matt was real good with giving us a really good deal.”
After recording and spawning its own label, The Methadones are anxious, but confident to see how the DIY approach turns out.
They figured it would be better to experiment the no record label idea with a split, because if it fails, big deal. You only lose out on six songs and fans of the band are still going to buy it. The only trouble would be getting new fans, the job of record labels and PR associated.
“It’s one thing to experiment with a whole record, because you put so much time into a full-length record and it would suck if we gambled and ended up dropping the ball on our own record,” Byrne said.
Back to Transparent Records. It’s basically just a sticker they used to stamp on the split album so it appears professional, but it’s also its own middleman in a way, in that up and coming bands can use the Transparent Records logo to get their foot in the door, so to speak.
“Say you had a band and you wanted your record out. You could just use Transparent Records logo, stamp it on the CD and you’ll get paid for everything,” Byrne said. “Hopefully it’ll get out there and more bands can use it.”
Being that the split just came out, if everything goes well, The Methadones are already considering using the same idea to release its next full-length album. If not, Byrne stated that they might work with Red Scare again.
In the past, The Methadones have run into a bit of trouble with labels, which is part of the reason why they want to release their albums themselves, because that would not only ensure them getting paid and given the proper credit for their work, but they have total control over their band.
“Red Scare’s done a good job with us, but some labels will put a CD out and that’s all they do is put the CD out and don’t promote it or anything, and they still take 40 to 50 percent of the profit for printing up a CD, which anyone can do,” Byrne explained.
Say you have $2,000. You can print any CDs you want and the labels will still take 50 percent out of it for doing nothing.
“It’s kind of ass backwards sometimes, so it’ll be nice having full control of the record. Also, if it goes out of print, we can work with another label down the line, but it’s kind of nice having full control for once,” Byrne admitted.
Currently, The Methadones are having some issues with Thick Records, who released “Career Objective” and “Not Economically Viable.”
“We’ve never been paid by (Thick Records) at all for anything. Right now, we’re in a bickering battle trying to get our rights back to those CDs ‘cause we’re going to Europe in the fall, and we probably won’t have enough time to re-release them by then, but when we get back, we want to re-release the CDs with bonus tracks and things like that.”
Five hundred copies of “Career Objective” were just re-released on vinyl via Underground Communiqué Records. Two hundred were pressed on blue vinyl and 300 were pressed on gold vinyl.
“They came out looking really, really nice. (UC Records) is doing ‘Not Economically Viable’ too,” Byrne said.
As for the new split with The Copyrights, the whole album is really short, with 12 songs spanning 25 minutes. They are The Methadones’ shortest songs, save for a few here and there on various albums of theirs.
“Three of them are more straight-up pop kind of songs and three have more of a darker sound,” Byrne explained. “We have one that’s really, really pop-sounding on there. First, we weren’t sure about the song, and then we went to the studio and started messing with it and it came out really good.”
Schafer and Byrne are both huge fans of pop and power pop music, and Byrne anticipates the next full-length will be headed more in that direction of the band’s influences, much like The Methadones’ cover album, putting its unique pop punk twists on power pop songs of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
With bassist Pete Mittler back from his humerus injury, The Methadones are back in full swing.
The band will be traveling to Europe from Sept. 10-30. When they get back, they will be playing Chicago’s annual Riot Fest as well as The Fest in Gainesville, Fla. With all this traveling ahead of them, Byrne said the band will not work on any new material until November or December.
“Probably spring, we’ll be ready to record again. In the wintertime, it sucks to tour, so we try to do all the touring in the summer, fall and spring,” Byrne said. “So we should have enough songs by spring to start recording again.”
The new split has no name, but Mike Byrne cranked out a few ideas.
“I wanted to call it, “Toby or not Toby,” ‘cause Toby runs Red Scare, to kind of poke fun at him. That’s what I wanted to call it,” Byrne said. “But we had to call it the split then.”
Instead of one band doing every other song, the split is organized in two blocks. The first six tracks are Methadones songs and the second six are Copyrights tunes. All are new songs with no covers.
Check out The Methadones at www.myspace.com/themethadones and The Copyrights at www.myspace.com/thecopyrights.