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

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.

Next to take part in our series are a band that are looking to take 2011 by storm with their debut album ‘Trial By Fire’. Stonecollar are a brand new hard rock four-piece from Cape Town, South Africa who have been working hard for a numbers of years to realise their dream of sharing their music with the world.

Keep out to date with the band on Facebook and check out some of their music below. If you like what you hear then head over to the bands store and pick up the physical CD or a digital copy.


Interview

Many people will have no knowledge, especially those here in the UK, of Stonecollar, can you give us a back story to the band? What does the band’s name have a meaning or a story to it?

Clinton: Stonecollar basically came about years ago when I started jamming with Bryan (drums) in his folk’s garage. Once we realised that there was something there we decided to actively search for a bassist, vocalist and lead guitarist. It painstakingly took more than a year to find the two that would eventually fill those spots. Leshem Petersen (bass and vocals) and Sean Tait (lead guitar) were the two that came onboard and essentially, the band had formed.

It took about a year for us to play together, find ‘our’ sound and then eventually write the music. Due to us all coming from slightly different backgrounds and musical influences it really lent itself to creating an interesting hybrid. One thing we always strove for though, was good composition and basically believing that ‘if the song needs it, it gets it’, so nothing was ever culled or inserted because ‘radio might/might not accept it’. Stonecollar writes the music that the members love to listen to, and in turn know that others will want to listen to as well.

Bryan: Yeah, We auditioned something like 16 vocalists over a year and a half or so. We finally found Leshem. Finding Sean was also quite tough. This was all through online and print ads. Clint and I knew each other from our school days, but Sean and Leash we found the hard way.
But we finally got the bunch of guys together that we knew would work and we started writing. So from 2008 I’d say we started gigging our earlier songs.

Leshem: Oh and the name came due to the whole ‘types or class of people’ – you get white collar and blue collar, and now you get Stonecollar. (‘Stone’ just symbolising the hard rock that it’s all about)

I noticed that Leshem has been vocally trained, have any other of the members had any sort of training musically?

Clinton: Yeah, Leshem is the only one who has been trained in such a way. Bryan and I were literally ‘garage trained’. That little room was our school. Lead guitarist Sean Tait also started teaching himself for 3 years, then hit a bit of a wall and went for 12 lessons in lead techniques, theory etc and then carried on self-training.

Your album, ‘Trial By Fire’, has just been released, what can you tell us about the album?

Clinton: The road to this album was a long and obstacle filled one. There were so many times where we were tested and just stuck through it and eventually got to the end with it done and dusted and in our hands. That experience has definitely left us with a ton of lyrical content for the next album. The album was actually going to be named ‘Done and Dusted’, but got renamed about quarter way through, just because we realised that this was a huge moment for us and that once we had the album, it was really going to be our test going forward. Would we be able to crack it, would the music hold up. So yeah, Trial By Fire just seemed like it was the right way to go.

Sean: Originally, were had always planned for the album to be entitled ‘Done ‘n Dusted’. However, when the song ‘Trial by Fire’ was written, it became evident to us that this had to be the title track for the album. This album is Stonecollar’s trial by fire, being our debut album. The song was based on a war story, and as it turned out we faced our own battle to navigate all the obstacles and struggles that threatened to put the album’s production in jeopardy.

Bryan: We recorded, edited, mixed, mastered, produced, designed, wrote…um, did it all ourselves. It was quite a process but we are very proud of it. It’s our debut album. It’s a 10-track album with a good mixture and variation on it. Stonecollar is regarded as a hard rock band and we do keep pretty close to that on the album, but there is some nice variety on there. A few up-tempo songs, a slow one, darker stuff, head-bobbing stuff. In our opinion, a well-rounded sound. The title is derived from one of the tracks on the album…but it’s also fitting. We are entering the music scene now and the next few years will be a trial for us.

Your influences range from Alter Bridge, Metallica, Soundgarden and Killswitch Engage. For readers of this interview who will be looking to experience Stonecollar, what bands would you say your album fits in or what aspects of the album fit with different artists?

Clinton: Yeah those guys are definitely big influences on us, and a few more bands too. And although our songs might not come out sounding like certain bands, the concept of the song or the initial chord progressions possibly felt like it had that feel to us but as for on this album, we really think the style of music is varied and you can’t pin the album down by one song alone. From start to finish the album takes you on a trip of highs and lows, fast and slows (but more fast naturally). There’s some Metallica moments, some Iron Maiden can be heard, Alter Bridge and Alice in Chains feature in a song or two… even a little Black Label Society I’d say.

Bryan: That’s a tough question. As a band we never try and reference our songs or sounds to other bands…ever. We have been told that we have several genres of music, so to speak, on our one album. Let me put it this way, we are a band who loves heavy, solid, melodic at times, head-bobbing music. If that appeals to you, then hopefully our music will too. We have varying influences as band members and that probably comes through too.

If it is possible to, could we go through the songs on the album to get a bit of information regarding what each track means to the band:

1. Not For Good – doing something selfless for another, going against your normal character
2. Trial By Fire – follows the hell-ish experience of a new recruit going to war. He’s just not cut out for it. It ends up doing a lot damage to his psyche.
3. SQT – did we evolve from something or didn’t we? Regardless, we are here now. I na wider scope – its all about change
4. Turn A Blind Eye – Tells of how cowardice we can be at times. Something wrong is going on right in front of us but we choose to look away and ignore it
5. Poison The Well – Its all about ‘beauty’ really, and more so how people tend to ignore their own beauty and differences and just want to ‘get some work done’ and fix things because they’re not the way society is telling/showing how to be.
6. Say Your Prayers – The song is loosely based around the idea that those who are more fortunate than others should offer help and support to those who are suffering, and not wait for somebody else to do it.
7. Unnatural Selection – It’s a story about how manipulation and destruction. We’ve all seen that girl who look so sweet and innocent, but when you get too close you see the damage they’re capable of. Funnily enough, the concept was taken from a nature program about some weird behaviour going on in the wild.
8. …As The Crow Flies – This story follows a lonely soul who rambles on about how hard life is, and that he wishes to take his own life to end his misery. However it turns out, that this is just a cry for attention
9. Loose Cannon – Pretty straight forward from the title, but its about that loose cannon that everyone knows of. This person just doesn’t think ahead. They shoot from the hip and often ends up with a lot of collateral damage
10. Dying Breed – It’s all about being cast aside by those that deemed you no longer useful or necessary but want you back later down the road. They’ve finally seen your worth.

Stonecollar - bandThe South African rock/metal scene is not something we are familiar with, how thriving is it with upcoming talent that is yet to be uncovered?

Clinton: I don’t think the rock/metal scene is too familiar with many South Africans either. Seriously though, it is a struggle as a rock and metal band. Everything in SA is more dance or hip-hop related. The last remaining rock radio shows have been canned and the only stations to get your fix are campus radio stations. So it’s not in a great state at the moment, but the painful thing is that there are rock fans and metalheads, it’s just that radio and TV don’t really take note because it’s not the greater population, so it’s not worth the while. So with that said, it is difficult to crack it big. All too often there bands that are around for 3-5 years and then kick the bucket due to tiring from the struggle.

Do you feel that there are any big differences to how the genres are perceived in South Africa as to the US or the Europe or even the UK?

Leshem: Well if you take those that listen to hard rock and metal, they know their stuff and listen to all varied sub-genres thereof. So I’d say we have a very similar view of music as the States and the UK.

Sean: Genres are one of the most widely debated topics. I suppose there is plenty room for misinterpretation across genres. However, I certainly base my genre assessment on an international scale. I guess certain individuals will define genres differently.

You recently signed with Headline Artists, how have they been helping the band so far?

Leshem: While the album was being mixed we just realised that we HAD TO get a management company on board. We couldn’t afford to sit back and relax, or waste time trying to do things ourselves. A lot of the work is already done by us, but we decided that we needed to fast-track things and get help from the best possible source.

Bryan: Yeah, I mean it’s still early days with Headline Artists. We only just signed to them. As management they have been giving us a lot of assistance already in planning of gigs. It is easier for them to line gigs up, based on their relationships, than us. They have the networks. They also know what works and what doesn’t work. We have already, I feel, gained valuable input from them in not wasting our time doing something that Headline Artists have tried before and know it’ll fail. But our journey with Headline Artists is still only starting. Hopefully they can help Stonecollar do great things in the future.

Live show is now where it will be at for the band, how would you describe your live show?

Clinton: We’re all about the live show. We have a lot of energy on stage and quite honestly – the bigger the show the better we perform. We believe our music goes down a treat live and loud. So many times we get people coming up afterwards and just wanting to extend there appreciation for our stuff and what we’re doing up there during our set. It’s always great when someone you don’t know does that.

Bryan: Tight and loud. We firstly always like to play real tight…and that is positive crit we often receive…that we are tight on stage, sounding really well-rehearsed. We like to own the stage, not to be intimidated by the event or gravity of the occasion. I guess that as a young band that could be the case. We like to move around while performing and interact with the crowd. We detest static displays. We love gigging, it’s the reason why we’re doing this. If it looks like we’re having tons of fun up there, it’s because we are.

Do you have any sort of rituals before you go on stage or any good luck charms?

Sean: Nothing much other than a bit of warming up backstage (if the venue has such an area) and just a bit of a ‘Lets go boys!’

Bryan: I generally warm the hands up with some basic rudiments on the seat of my throne before a set, about 15 minutes before going on. I’ve also made a habit of only normally having one drink max before playing. Not superstitious so no charms or anything, but I always take the ring off my finger and hang it around my neck chain. Always. It goes nowhere else!

With the album now finally launched what does 2011 hold for the band; do you have any goals that you would like to achieve before the end of year?

Clinton: 2011 really is going to be a huge year for us, and with management on board, we’re hoping its going to be more streamlined, eventful and productive. Some goals would be to perform at more festivals around the country, create a significant online presence b.m.o. viral videos, blogs, music videos, etc, to go on an end-of-year tour and then just for the album to keep selling. Internationally, we’d love some exposure b.m.o. reviews, profile features and playlists. Our sound really is the type of sound that is appreciated in both the States and the UK and greater Europe, so it’s important for us to reach these areas in which ever way we can.

Leshem: We have a few marketing campaigns that we’d like to see take off…some viral stuff, some “out of the ordinary” tactics. We are working hard right now on such schemes. So hopefully we see success from that. 2011 is all about creating initial awareness. We feel we have what it takes to grab attention and we’ll be playing our back sides off for the cause. We also want to get around the country at least once and play in other cities across SA, especially Johannesburg. The rock scene there is great.

Sean: Have a successful album launch. Shoot a music video. Introduce the acoustic set that we have been working on behind the scenes, to the world. Continue to grow as a band, and use that growth to develop our follow-up album.

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?

Firstly, music in CD form, especially in SA, is expensive. I can see why people download illegally. People follow the path of least resistance. I am a person who likes to own the album but I definitely get where people are coming from by downloading. However, I think it’s a feather in your cap if you have like 50,000 people downloading your music. They download it, put it onto their iPods, into their cars, and play it at house parties maybe… Mission accomplished. They know about you. The awareness has been created. That could not be in the past. And I’m talking across the globe here.

I know that the challenge is to get that working or you, in order to sustain the band. But I’m sure there are ways. As musicians we are trying to work our way through that now. Think about it, if you have many downloads of your music, legit or not, think of what you can do with that info and knowledge. The challenge I think is using those stats, that knowledge to your advantage. One day when Stonecollar get to that stage I’ll let you know how we’re dealing with it.

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?

Musicians, or at least rock musicians, are supposed to rebel against the system and do things differently. It is definitely easier for a band with fame, wealth and all that to give their stuff away, like Radiohead for example. For a smaller, lesser known band who had to pay a heck of a lot of money to record an album…it’s a difficult prospect. But if there’s a will, there’s a way. If you find a way to hinder or inhibit illegal downloading, then there’ll be 10 ways to bypass it.

I think we need to realise the model of the music business has changed. We all need to think differently about it and not cling to traditions or the formula followed by so many bands.

Downloading may be free…but so is YouTube. These days you can somehow get people on the other side of the world keen on your music via a site like YouTube (e.g. Die Antwoord), so it works both ways. They never had that in the past. You can create a demand for your music, live shows, etc in other parts of the world without having been there.

We at Stonecollar are very excited about the prospect of doing things differently, being progressive.

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 the internet is obviously a huge factor. There is only so much time / money / people to go around. A decline in one sector, a rise in another…it obviously played its part…a big one I guess. But I also think it’s not a music thing. People’s attention spans are shorter now than ever before. People are also less fussed about the details. They like a song they heard on their PC, dumped there by a friend. They put it on their iPod and tell people they love it. They don’t know who sings it or its name, but it’s number 12 on their playlist. I think people are not doing things the same way anymore. Therefore, the way we market music, or anything for that matter, will change.

I personally believe there are more options for people these days to occupy themselves with. More music, more media, etc.

People will also do what’s easiest. So they’ll go to the web for answers, music, movies…rather than borrow a CD from a friend or rent a film.

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?

I don’t buy music online really. I have before but not more than like twice I think. I opt for the physical CD.

Digital music markets can only be good. Making your music more accessible cannot be a bad thing can it? Like I said before, people choose the path of least resistance. A lot of people are online all day, so it just makes more sense.

I have read many interviews where artists say they’ll stop producing full albums. I get that. It’ll be sad I guess as albums are something I’ve come to love…seeing where a band is at that stage in their career. Following the theme of their album and all that but if you release a single every now and them, then you’re also keeping it fresh. It might also be a good way of filtering out the bad tracks, the ones that shouldn’t be there…you know the type, the ones on the albums you normally skip right past.

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?

I think it’s a great marketing tool, definitely the most powerful (arguably) for any product…ever. People can access your music and info from anywhere in the world. I’m writing to you now from Cape Town, RSA and you’re on the other side of the world. The opportunities and potential are probably limitless. It’s actually very exciting. Sites like Facebook, ReverbNation, MySpace, YouTube…they all bridge global divides. If someone’s keen on finding good metal for example, they’re going to trawl those sites looking for some. The fact that the band is in Russia and they’re surfing from New Zealand changes nothing. You can also site many examples of how bands found fame and large fan bases through the web. So it clearly works.

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?

Yes. Most definitely.

Stonecollar - band logoA 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?

These very advances are how Stonecollar recorded Trial By Fire; from a home studio. We had total control over the process, it was probably a lot more cost effective that outsourcing it to a studio, and we could do it at the weird hours we wanted to.

But you need to have someone working with you who knows what they’re doing. If not then it’ll probably be a waste of energy and money.

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?

It could be, but I think you’d have to have a large fan base already or at least a dedicated one. So you’ll have to be a named band and have some clout…or else you’ll just look stupid. It’s also a way of getting closer to the fans, like you said. You see, in my opinion, having the internet with all its little viral videos and all that, people are getting to see other sides to the bands they listen to. They see them in the studio, or fooling around with a handy cam. So certain barriers are then broken down and people get “closer” to their favourite bands. They see them tweeting on Twitter, knowing they just had dinner or something at a certain restaurant. Famous artists are more accessible these days, so it could be the way the industry is going.

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?

Well, we are a new band and support ourselves through other means. Not preferable but that’s how it is. So yeah, not something I can answer on from experience.

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?

I only recently entered the industry as a musician. I was always on the outside, as a fan. Now I guess I’m on both sides. It looks like things are changing. Be it good, be it bad…they’re changing and have changed a lot already. But the internet makes it easier for bands to get access to fans and potential or future fans. Simple. I think if one is to look at the internet and its culture as a good thing, a necessary tool, then you can start getting creative and having fun with it.
Stonecollar are only now having to think of these things and it is exciting. We are planning online marketing strategies in between writing music. So things have probably changed for band members who’ve been doing this for a long time. But for us, it is how it is and it is exciting.

     

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.

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