By Daniel Neely
Early last week I received an intriguing email from concertina player Pádraig Rynne of the modern band NOTIFY in which he announced their new all-digital approach to releasing music. Fed up with the baggage that comes with CDs, the band has elected to forego physical product with its next album and put out its 10 tracks in video form. The first of the series, filmed live in Cork City’s Mother Jones Flea Market, is called “The Aud” and it was posted to the Band’s YouTube channel on Oct. 25. It’s a fabulous and boundary-pushing bit of music. Subsequent videos in the same vein will be released continually on YouTube, at regular intervals.
I spoke with Rynne a few days afterward and he expanded on their plan a bit, telling me that the basis for all of NOTIFY’s new videos are live performances. “The reason for this,” Rynne explained, “is so that people get to ‘see’ the band and give them an idea of what we are like at a live show, the ‘live show’ being the goal. We want people to come to our concerts.”
Once all 10 videos have been posted to YouTube, the music will be bundled together on Spotify, where the band’s profile is tied to gig information for their followers. At this stage, the band will also sell a substantial-feeling but media-free physical piece at their shows, which will include album art and liner notes as well as a download code, redeemable through their website.
It’s a very different approach for a band that thrives on being different. “We are hopeful that this new move will benefit us, even if it is risky,” Rynne confessed. “We are unaware of anyone else doing it this way, so we don't have a template to follow.”
What motivated the change? NOTIFY recently realized that the majority of people who were going to their shows don’t really buy CDs and seemed to only know about the band because of their presence on YouTube, iTunes and Spotify. They saw it as an entirely new approach to music consumption. So why, they wondered, should they continue pressing CDs, a costly (if entirely familiar) approach almost entirely removed from their youthful, tech savvy, and (perhaps most important) expanding market, when the financial burden it imposes is essentially unjustifiable?
Rynne, who has a strong background in traditional music, was called this a “slow drip” approach and was quick to explain the benefits: “When you put out a CD, you get one shot at getting to the public and then you disappear for the next 1-2 years. [When you] release something new every few weeks, [you] can stay current with both media and fans alike. By drip feeding it, you stay in peoples minds and can respond to new ideas and fresh artistic directions.” This, he argued, helps keep your audience engaged and is of primary importance. “What’s the thing that will keep a band going in the music business? Creating an audience and keeping it.”
NOTIFY’s new approach certainly won’t be for everyone. Larger, more established acts won’t have much utility for this sort of approach; neither will those who depend on over-the-air radio to get their music heard. Some audiences might reject an all digital approach. But emerging artists and traditional musicians should take note – the trail NOTIFY is blazing is an interesting and essentially grassroots blueprint for finding and building an audience – especially a younger one – in the new music industry.
Have a listen to “The Aud” and you’ll hear an Irish band taking a fearless, daring direction that’s gone way beyond its trad music roots. The way they’re getting this new sound out there, by building out their audience beyond their Irish base in the most contemporary of ways, is fearless as well. Congratulations to NOTIFY for taking the leap, it’s an important and admirable first step and one I hope will get their music heard more widely. NOTIFY will be on tour Ireland with double Grammy award winner Mark Lettieri and his trio, November 15-20. To learn more, find NOTIFY’s YouTube channel, and to engage the band, visit www.notify.ie.