Exclusive Interview Series: The internet and the music industry – Ghosts Of Eden

As part of a new series of interviews EspyRock commander-in-chief Michael Hughes, who is currently writing a dissertation on the effect of the internet on the music industry for the University Of The West Of Scotland, will be getting the views of artists on the internet’s effect on the music industry. The interview series will cover what is currently going on with the band at the moment but will also feature a questionnaire ranging from topics as to illegal downloading, social networking, technology and the future of the industry.

First up we get the views of Ghosts Of Eden, an EspyRock reader favourite, frontman Thomas Pino who took time out of recording the bands new EP to answer our questions.

Check out an acoustic video of ‘Dear Mary’ on Facebook, one of the new tracks featured on their upcoming EP and more on their Facebook. Like what you hear? Then head over to Kickstarter to support the band by pledging towards the fund to help them create their new EP in return for special bonuses.


Interview

Right now the band is in the studio working on the new record, how is it progressing?

It’s actually going really well. We’re basically done with half of it and I think it should be done by the end of April. Then we should start mixing in May. I am super stoked. We all are. Originally, we weren’t going to head into the studio until the summer but we got so excited about these songs that we just wanted to get them out there!

What can we expect from the new EP compared to the previous release?

Well I think this one is a little more focused. With the first one we just picked the four best written songs whereas on this new record, the songs work better together on many levels. I think they are all strong but they also share some themes and work together more as far as creating an album goes. This record also features Benny on drums for the first time. I think he adds a nice new flavour to all these tunes and you can definitely hear the growth in the band on this record. I also think since we have more time this time around, we utilized the studio to our advantage a little more as far as equipment and sounds go. This new album is a rock record and I really hope people like it as much, if not more than the first.

Track titles were confirmed yesterday so what can you tell us about any of the songs, anyone of them have anything that stands out for you?

Well, I think the song “Dear Mary” is really going to be the jaw dropper on this album. There is something about it. I am very proud of it because it was the hardest to compose for us. From a technical aspect, it is the easiest song to play but the arrangement is pretty complex. Lyrically it tells a story of a girl who makes excuses for her past while redemption and progression in life should be the answer. It’s definitely a personal story that I think many people can relate to. I really tried to up my game lyrically on this record. I hope these songs are stories that more people can relate to. I don’t think I was so concerned with that on the first record but I think this album is capable of creating more personal connections.

Ghosts Of Eden - Tom PinoFollowing your Facebook post I have to ask, where is Sexy Sax Man making his appearance on the album? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaoLU6zKaws)

Haha, you know what, I am still trying to find him. There is a great spot in our song “K.M.A.” that he could play on. Sounds ridiculous, but I really hear a 2 second saxophone part in the song. I don’t know why, but if anyone in the UK sees him, tell him GoE is looking for him.

Now for this record the band is using Kickstarter and at this moment with 50 days left to contribute, 39% has been pledged to your $3,500 goal. The problem of course is that if you don’t earn the full amount the band sadly doesn’t get anything from the fund so has there been any thought about what will happen if by chance you didn’t make it? Would the EP still go ahead or would it go on hold until something can be worked out?

The response from our fans has been amazing. Our biggest fear is that people would see this as us looking for a hand out which is so far from the truth. The outpouring of support has been uncanny though. The great thing about Kickstarter is that we get to reward those who donate with fun stuff like autographed equipment, DVDs and stuff like that. I am confident that our fans will pull through and get our goal reached but if we do fall short, I think we’ll just try to finish whatever we can and then delay the release until we can fully fund it. Our first record’s release was delayed 2 or 3 times because of the same reason so we’re just keeping our fingers crossed that we don’t have to deal with that again.

One thing I’ve noticed the band playing recently is a few in store performances, how have the acoustic sets gone down?

Yeah, we love doing shows like these because it helps us show our diversity. We are and always will be a rock band, but I think the style of our song writing allows us to either go nuts on stage or strip down and do something different . I always admired bands like Nirvana and Alice in Chains who were able to take their loud, dark and angry songs and show the public how beautiful the songs really are deep down by doing their unplugged shows. We want to do the same.

Of course in terms of shows you have two big shows coming up soon first opening for Edisun who are signed to EMI and then you will be headlining the Seaside Music Festival, looking forward to these two big shows?

We’re really excited about the show with Edisun. They are a great band and it will be our last show at home until our record release show sometime in July. With that said, we’re going to tear up that stage since we won’t be here for a while. We really lucked out with the Seaside show. Being a band from New York has its advantages and disadvantages with the latter being that out of town venues are very hesitant to take a chance on you unless you’re famous. We’re not afraid to pay our dues until the end of time which clubs like and I guess after doing that at enough places, we were given a shot with this show. It should be a blast.

What’s the plans for when the new record comes out, will you be performing a record release party in New York for fans?

We are definitely planning a record release party right now. We’re aiming for some time in July. So many things need to fall perfectly in line though so wish us luck!

Internet and the music industry

The biggest issue with the internet for artists is of course illegal downloading and there has been a rapid decline in value of the industry as the internet expands throughout the world. Several artists I have spoken to have stated that it has become part of life and that now selling albums is no longer a profitable business; money is solely earned from touring. What are your views on the matter of illegal downloading?

I am slightly on the fence about it because for our band, we just want people to have our music heard and if illegally downloading it causes you to become a loyal fan that comes to shows and spreads the word about us, how can we persecute you for that? However, I think there is an unsaid amount of “respect” in purchasing music. I sometimes hear an album a few weeks before it comes out but I still buy it after it comes out. Even famous bands are only making chump change from CD sales, even if they sell over a million copies so the mentality of how to access their favourite music has changed for many music lovers.

Do you feel that any of the current methods such as watermarking or streaming based models which have users paying a fee to stream music will take off and help stop the illegal sharing of music files? Or do you see any strength with the idea of giving away your music for free, having it shared around the world and again relying on touring to make money?

Some artists are actually offended by illegal downloading but those bands probably have ridiculous royalty rates. The labels are hurting the most. I understand this is a business just like any industry but I think they dug the holes themselves. I don’t think bands rely on touring because of illegal downloading. When you’re a brand new band and you’re only getting less than 10% of your CD sales, how else are you going to make money? Do the math. If your five member band sells 200,000 albums at 10 bucks a pop and you get 10%, each band member made $40,000 each and the label made over a million dollars. Now you have to pay taxes and pay your crew. These are the things many people don’t know about. Touring and selling merchandise to make a living is not a fall back. It’s a necessity.

The global recorded music industry saw a 31% decline in value from the years of 2004 to 2010 but the digital music market has seen a 1000% increase in value over the same period. Do you see the internet’s influence on the industry as the sole cause of this decline or do you believe there are any other factors which you consider an issue?

I think it’s a big reason but definitely not the only reason. I think like in any business, if their product doesn’t improve, less people are going to be interested. This is only my opinion, but major labels are not exactly pushing the envelope anymore with the music they are putting out. I think there is a vicious cycle of labels being fearful which causes them to play it safe with the music they put out and artists they sign. Luckily there are many indie labels out there who are acting as a buffer amongst the mess that is the current state of the music industry.

With such a growth in the digital music market, many artists have already stopped creating physical albums; the most notable is Rob Zombie who stated his most recent release would be his last physical album as the growing popularity of iTunes and Amazon is now controlling album sales. The IFPI recently published findings that 16.5% of internet users in the United States purchase their music digitally than physically.
Firstly as an artist and music fan, do you still buy physical albums or do you download from digital music stores? Secondly, do you see the digital music markets as something positive for the industry and your career as a new and cheaper distribution method?

There are bands that I am a very loyal fan of. For them, I find myself always buying the physical album. I do buy online though as well. I’d say 50% of my purchases are physical albums and 50% are online. I have no problem buying online because it is still showing support for the artist. As an artist I do think having digital music stores available is a benefit because with the surge of so many social media platforms, you can constantly promote your online store and with one click of a button, your fans can buy your music.

Ghosts Of Eden - Tom PinoAs the digital music stores assist in distribution, other factors that come into releasing an album are marketing and promotion of any sort. What are your views on the ability to use the internet to promote and market yourself?

I think it’s great because you can be ruthless about it and it’s free for the most part. I do think there is a benefit to having a label who truly believes in your music promote and market your music, but they seem few and far between these days.

Social networking has naturally become a massive asset in the industry for labels and artists to be able to interact with fans on an everyday basis from anywhere in the world. Do you feel that if the social networking boom hadn’t taken place that it would effectively hinder careers as there would have been no direct route to communicate with fans?

Absolutely. I think it would make things much harder for musicians to reach markets they normally wouldn’t be able to with such ease. We rely heavily on social networking platforms to stay in touch with our fans and promote our band and music so it would definitely take away a big aspect of who we are. However, I think it would make bands work harder. 20 years ago, you had to just pay your dues, network and pray for a break. I think it would be interesting to see which bands could survive through an era like that.

A big development in recent years has been the hardware and software that has been created for anyone and everyone to purchase. We now find aspiring artists building their own home studios at their computer by purchasing top of line software, sound cards, microphones and such. What are your views on the technology advancements in recent years from software, hardware and even to the MP3 itself? What positives or negatives if any do you see from these advancements?

I think it’s great but we’re too broke and lazy to buy studio equipment and teach ourselves how to use it, haha. I wish we did because recording is so expensive, but there is also a feeling you get about being in a studio making an album. It is also nice having outside input. You wind up creating things you never thought about by having those outside unbiased perspectives.

While purchasing hardware/software and recording in your own home studio is a method of removing big studio costs and staff costs, recently fan funding in return for incentives has become a new way forward. Recently in the UK bands such as Madina Lake, Funeral For A Friend and The Blackout have used Pledge Music (Kickstarter in the US) in which fans contribute towards the cost of the studio in return for signed albums, special gifts and more. Do you think this method of involving fans more intimately in the creation of an album and offering them incentives to do so could be a way forward to combat the losses through piracy?

Absolutely. We have our very own Kickstarter project going to help raise money for our new album: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/goe/the-ghosts-of-eden-family-makes-a-new-album (Shameless Plug!) We could have taken out a loan or emptied out our savings but we really wanted our fans to feel like they played an intricate role in making this album happen. I know if I was on the other side, I’d feel good about myself bringing the music I love to life. I don’t know if it will combat losses from piracy because you can’t just raise money to pocket. It has to be for something, but that something is worth its weight in gold for some fans if you ask me.

In the United States from 1999 to 2009 there was a 17% fall in the number of people hired as a musician and in Europe, while not directly musicians, the estimated number of jobs likely to be lost due to piracy in the creative industries will reach 1.2 million by 2015. Do you worry as an artist that you will ever be swept by this wave and be forced to leave the industry you love in order to provide a better living for yourself?

I don’t worry about it but it makes me sad thinking that it’s a possibility for some people. Luckily I have a pretty good day job but not all musicians are that lucky. I think if you love what you do, you don’t need to stop. I don’t think you should starve for your art. I think that’s an extremist view on things. People who are hungry musicians are no more deserving of success than those who bust their ass to go to school and get a good job. We all have the same dream. Some musicians think if they sacrifice everything, they deserve it more. I think they are just idiots. I commend anyone who gives up things and makes sacrifices for their dream but you don’t need to go all or nothing. There can be a happy medium. You just need to find that.

When you consider the industry previously to the time before the internet and to now with the internet in full swing, what do you see for the future of the industry?

We’re fucked, haha. You can edit that with “We’re screwed.” if you want. I don’t know what to expect. I’ll tell you the story I tell everyone. 25 years ago if you were in a small club watching Pearl Jam play the songs that wound up on “Ten” and there were only 5 people there but 2 of them were record label execs, they’d say “Wow, these guys are amazing. We’re going to make them stars.” Then, they would probably give them a record deal. Maybe it wouldn’t go that smoothly, but you get the idea. Now fast forward 25 years. Same band, same amazing classic songs, same club, 5 people, 2 record label execs. They’d look around and they’d say “Amazing band, but nobody is here to see them. Let’s get out of here.” Nowadays, record labels want you doing their job first. I think if there was a better product out there, people would be more inclined to buy more music. Until then, there’s no reason why people shouldn’t just download music or turn on Top 40 Radio. You’ll probably hear the song you want to hear within 10 minutes anyway.

     

About Michael

Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

One Response to “Exclusive Interview Series: The internet and the music industry – Ghosts Of Eden”

  1. Fantastic interview!! Thanks Michael and Tom!
    Michael – I’m looking forward to reading other artists views on the effect of the internet on the music industry!