Exclusive Interview Series: The internet and the music industry – Hydrovibe

As part of a new series of interviews EspyRock commander-in-chief Michael Hughes, who has just written 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.

Next to take part are former EspyRock featured artist Hydrovibe with vocalist Heather St. Maire and guitarist Mat Dauzat taking the time to talk to us. After a successful 2010 the band are back recording for future releases but with the economy tightening budgets the band talk about their plans for now, their music and the future.

Be sure to follow the band on Facebook and keep up to date with them.

2010 was a good year for the band with touring and getting your name out across the world. Of course one of the notable events was having ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ and ‘Shallow Grave’ featured on MTV. What other highlights did you have in 2010?

Heather: We spent the first quarter or so of the year focused on our big album release in Japan. There was a lot of press rollout for the event, and we were quite busy with interviews and recording audio/video promo. As that was going on, we focused on writing some new music to get a head start on our next release.

We did tour the Southern US, which mainly hinged upon a big performance in my hometown in South Louisiana. It was a benefit concert to assist recovery and rebuilding efforts to areas affected by the BP Oil Spill. Since Hydrovibe’s beginning, the four of us have supported and assisted various causes, and this one hit close to home (literally) for me. I was happy to be a part of it.

I was also featured in various ad campaigns and interviews for the release of Filemaker’s Bento 4 both in the US and Japan. I’m the techie in the band, so it’s always nice to show off my geekier side. haha

The band were signed to Japanese label Spinning in 2010, how has that deal went since you were snapped up?

Heather: Spinning really know how to market their bands. We had sizable spreads in almost every major rock magazine in Japan. The label sent us photos of our album on end-caps and listening stations in Tower Records, HMV, and many others all over the country… which was great to see. With the correlating release of Bento 4 I mentioned, I was also in MacFan Magazine. Because of this big push, we’ve seen a huge rise in our Japanese fan base and hope a tour comes to fruition there sometime soon.

From emails we sent back and forth there was talk of focussing on a UK deal after the Japanese one was sealed and you did have your eye on a label over here. Has that situation progressed any?

Mat: Most of the deals that we looked at were from labels in England… and none of the deals were really very appropriate for our band’s business. We are opening up the search to other countries to see if we can land a deal mimicking the structure of the deal we did in Japan. Keep those fingers crossed for us!

You mentioned to me that because of the US economy and high gas prices at the moment it has become difficult for the band to tour and I don’t think you are the only band who is feeling the pressure. Do you think it is a bad time for musicians if they can’t afford to tour in support of their work or fund the recording of their new material?

Heather: Yes, it is really tough right now. Not only is it more expensive just to get to the venues but we’re also seeing the venues tightening the bookings and guarantees. But I’m an eternal optimist. If we continue to work hard and work smart, we’ll be able to hang in there.

While the band is off touring you are writing new music, how is that coming along? Any teasers of what it will sound like for fans?

Heather: We’ve got quite a number of songs in varying stages of completion, and the four of us are really happy with the process so far. We’ve been “road testing” them at shows, and we’re getting positive feedback from the fans as well.

It’s never easy to describe songs, but I think these are really solid rock songs that somehow maintain the element that makes them uniquely Hydrovibe.

Instead of releasing an album you are releasing EPs as you complete them, do you have a set aim of number of songs per EP?

Mat: We aren’t sure if we’ll be releasing EPs per sé. We are thinking of beginning to schedule semi-frequent digital releases of singles for a bit. We’ll probably modularly work towards packaging these singles with other songs and content to release actual EPs or LPs at some point. We haven’t totally explored the logistical aspect of the releases just yet, but it is certainly coming soon as we are well into the recording process right now.

Hydrovibe BandHave you thought about whether this will a physical and digital release or due to costs just release digitally for the time being?

Mat: I think at first, we’ll release the singles in a digital-only format, but as we gather a roster of these singles, we’ll want to look into the physical CD format for sure.

Is this the bands goal for 2011 to release one or a few new EPs as you try to tour or is there anything else you would like to achieve before the end of the year?

Heather: We definitely want to release as much material as we can, jump on some well-organized tours, and further our dealings overseas. I’d love to see that UK deal inked this year!

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?

Heather: I think we are dealing with an issue that we just can’t fight. Hydrovibe decided long ago to just accept it as an unfortunate way of life and try to think of other ways to survive as artists.

We’ve always placed high emphasis on our live show, and we have always valued our fans. They are very supportive and loyal. It’s not uncommon for our fans to overpay us for merchandise and CDs at shows… primarily because we make them feel that they are an integral part of the Hydrovibe machine.

It’s not unlike small software companies who offer great customer support in addition to a great product. If you feel valued, you’re more likely to support the continued growth of that company.

Bands need to realize this and act accordingly. We aren’t Rock Gods… we’re business owners.

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?

Heather: As a consumer, I get annoyed with things like watermarking. And streaming just doesn’t make sense to me as a realistic option for the majority of music listeners. But I won’t stop selling my music… There are people out there who still value and appreciate all the hours and all the money that goes into making music.

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?

Heather: Most of the CDs in music stores are going to be put out by major labels – representing the tiniest fraction of all the music being made. And, honestly, the music industry (at least here in the US) is floundering. They’ve become so corporate and focused on the bottom line that they’re not putting the effort in to developing artists… and ultimately they aren’t really putting out enough good music to actually purchase. I think that’s the real reason for the decline.

It’s not unlike what happened to the US automotive industry a few decades ago when suddenly Japanese imports were outselling them… because these imports were better products. The US companies had to rethink their products in order to compete. Likewise, the music industry needs to deliver better music than ever before… so far they aren’t.

The internet is a great way for independent bands like Hydrovibe to sell music globally. And there are so many great bands out there selling digitally. Between Pandora and Amazon.com, I’ve found out about so many amazing artists, and their music is only available at shows or online.

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 see the digital music markets as something positive for the industry and your career as a new and cheaper distribution method?

Heather: It’s definitely more cost-effective to release digitally. You don’t have the manufacturing costs of a physical product, and you don’t have the enormous costs of marketing physical products. Fans don’t realize just how expensive it is merely to get your CD in a chain store… much less to have it featured as an end-cap or listening station.

That being said, we will continue to do some amounts of physical CDs because the fans always buy CDs at shows. You can’t get the band to autograph an MP3, right? haha!

As 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?

Heather: The internet has brought our planet down to such a small size, in a way. It’s not uncommon for me to communicate with fans from Australia to Japan to Alaska. Without the internet, Hydrovibe wouldn’t be a global band.

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?

Heather: I have a love/hate relationship with social networking. We started tweeting as a band in 2008, and it was a great way to keep our fans notified of show updates or where to meet up with us before or after a performance. So, I understand the usefulness of it.

But now, it’s a situation of quantity over quality, to me. I’m bombarded every day with tweets and status updates on what people are eating or when they are showering. TOO MUCH INFORMATION!! And people are replacing everyday interactions with tweets and updates.

I would like to see a bit of mystery brought back into our lives… and I would like to see people have REAL conversations again.

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?

Heather: Technological advances are always a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you are correct that more artists have tools available to create great songs or EPs or albums for little investment. However, this also means that anyone can do it.

So, there is also a flood of mediocre – or worse – music out there as well. And even good musicians begin to forget about starting with a solidly written song… they get caught up in “what they can do” rather than “what they should do” resulting in either over-produced or overly-perfected music that has no life in it anymore.

With “Nothing Left to Lose”, we actually took a very 1970s approach to the recording process. Quite a few of the vocals were done live with the band over a 4 day period so that we could have that passionate delivery just as if I had been onstage.

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?

Heather: I have mixed feelings about these types of programs. I think they are great ways for people to raise money. But I also feel that it’s kind of like asking for a handout… I would feel like I’m “begging” or something. For the time being, I’m just watching to see how it plays out for others, and I’m feeling out how Hydrovibe fans specifically would feel about this sort of approach.

Hydrovibe BandIn 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?

Heather: Fortunately, I have other artistic skills outside music that I can fall back on to make a living while I continue forging forward in this uncertain music industry. Obviously this steady decline of the music industry worries me a bit, but it just forces us find creative ways to adapt and continue onward. Making music is something I love to do, and I will always be musically active on some level.

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?

Heather: To me, that’s comparing apples to oranges. Music before the internet – especially the ’60s and ’70s – was an entirely different animal. Labels nurtured and developed artists who had real talent – The Beatles, Janis Joplin, etc. Fans were different back then too. They got behind a cause and fought for it… they had passion and loyalty. They knew all they could about the musicians themselves.

Today, labels want an easy hit for easy money. Right now, the trend is to sign actors/actresses so they can piggyback a music release with a TV or cinematic release. There is no development… It doesn’t even matter if the person has talent anymore! It’s an “auto-tune will fix it” mentality. And fans are so bombarded with information and new artists that we’re all getting a sort of entertainment ADD. No one really takes the time to follow an artist’s career. Ask most fans to name the band line-up – and often times they only know one or two members!

So, we’re living in interesting times, and all the rules have changed. Andy Warhol said, “In the future everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame.” And that’s exactly where we are today. That being said, I’ll continue to make music that makes me and my fans happy and let the future settle itself.


About ??

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.

2 Responses to “Exclusive Interview Series: The internet and the music industry – Hydrovibe”

  1. Hydrovibe is not only my favorite band, but also true role models with their integrity and work ethic, clearly evidenced in this interview. Love the article, love the music, love the band!

  2. Great candid and sincere interview. It is a pleasure to know such good hearted and talented people.