It’s a digital music streaming site. But unlike other services such as Spotify or Pandora, they also release records.
But it’s not a label. At least not in the traditional sense.
Located in Santa Cruz, California, “where the redwoods meets the ocean,” as spokesperson Chris Carr eloquently puts it, Feedbands has become an international online music provider with an emphasis on crowdsourcing and grassroots community building.
It’s a digital-streaming site that has discovered an innovative way to get new music into the hands and ears of fans across North America via their vinyl album subscription service.
The Feedbands website is a portal for independent artist to submit their songs for streaming on the site and mobile apps. In turn, listeners vote on the songs, which helps Feedbands determine which artists they work with for the record subscription service. Subscribers then receive a vinyl record through the mail, paying either $14.95 a month for standard black vinyl or $19.95 for coloured 180 gram vinyl.
Feedbands is not just an online phenomenon. It’s also a total rock and roll party
It’s a concept that’s novel, especially for those of us who collect records and enjoy the surprise of getting new music on vinyl straight to the mailbox.
But it’s not just an online phenomenon. It’s also a total rock and roll party.
Carr began contacting bands he liked to let them know he would help them out with a place to stay and a rock show at the Feedbands headquarters. And the idea to include records as part of their service came from one of these parties.
“One day Jesse [of The Unknown Relatives] called me up and said he was going to be in Santa Cruz,” says Carr. “I told him I could do a show or a house gathering at the Feedbands headquarters and have a BBQ and bring in some drinks and we could really have a time of it.
“The Unknown Relatives blew us away. They had this amazing chemistry and were in that tour mode where everything is telepathic. We lost our minds and had a great time. And at the end of the night they were giving away free records. And I thought ‘wow.’”
Carr says he had a record player at the time, along with some choice pieces from his parents’ vinyl collection. But up until that point he hadn’t considered records to be a piece of the Feedbands puzzle – something that helped rescue the service from obscurity.
“Here we are talking about saving rock and roll and we thought, hell, how are we going to save rock if we can’t save the record.”
Embracing the novel concept of paying musicians fairly
Carr cites his background as a grassroots musician as part of the impetus for starting Feedbands. Playing with the band Ancestree, who books their own tours and releases their own albums, Carr began researching how independent bands could support themselves with their music.
“It was a way to take these kinds of musicians and literally feed them and support them beyond what they can do,” says Carr.
Upon opening the app, a seemingly random track will immediately fire up. Amidst the controls is a button that allows you to vote on whether or not you dig what you are hearing – this helps push artists to the charts of the top-selling tracks on Feedbands, which are similarly found on the app.
If we sell a song on the player the bands get 85% of that
There is little connecting the bands stylistically – expect anything from metal to hip-hop to ambient to rock. But it’s perfect for those ambiguous moments when you are looking for something new to listen to, says Carr.
“The goal of launching the app was to get an international audience for these bands that were under the radar. The marketing goal is to give bands a whole new audience. We wanted to support them by selling the digital music files and giving them exposure in new areas.”
But it’s not just about exposure, says Carr. Feedbands also embraces the novel concept of paying their bands fairly.
“If we sell a song on the player it is $.75, and [the bands] will get 85% of that,” says Carr.
Ty Bohrnstedt, front man and guitarist of The Vliets, the second band that Feedbands featured in their vinyl subscription service, says that getting recognition through the service has been a boon for his album.
“It all seemed too good to be true,” says Bohrnstedt. “They said they were going to pay me and I didn’t have to do anything. They were going to make records and they were going to send them out to a thousand people and I was going to keep all the rights. And they did it.”
Ryan Zweng of the Coo Coo Birds is similarly happy with his experience on Feedbands. Their album, Don’t Bring Your Boyfriends, was released on July and is getting the band far more recognition than they were initially hoping for.
“The record is getting distributed to Japan and Europe,” says Zweng. “The fact is that they are using technology to distribute something as old school as vinyl. They have a fan base and their subscribers are growing all the time.
“It’s beautiful to see our album have a couple of hundred to a thousand listeners.”
Saving rock and roll one record at a time
Carr still remembers when the tipping point came for Feedbands to start pressing vinyl, back when he hosted The Unknown Relatives.
“They told me that if you are going to have a bond with that artist, that the only sound they want fans to take home is that record.”
And while the digital streaming service is key to the process, the true heart and soul of Feedbands can be found pressed into the vinyl they mail out every month.
“There is something you can touch along with the auditory sensation. It’s like a little work of art,” says Carr.
“And there is the ceremonial dropping of the needle, and it’s a skill to get it right on the edge. That’s something we want to instill in our listeners,” he continues.
“The engagement is what I’m striving for. I want people talking about new music.”
Meet the Feedbands bands
So far Feedbands has featured four groups since launching their vinyl subscription service. While the groups range in style, Carr says that he, along with subscribers, are stoked on the variety of sounds.
The Wild Ones – Dream On
Billed as surf punk doo wop, The Wild Ones are reminiscent of ’90s Kill Rock Stars bands. Or a really potent drink: combine a shot of something sweet, something gritty and a punk rock gob of spit and you’re getting close to The Wild Ones.
Coo Coo Birds – Don’t Bring Your Boyfriends
Scrappy guitar licks abound with plenty of hip-shaking grooves from the San Francisco-based Coo Coo Birds. The riffs are crunchy and washed out in a layer of cheetah-print, while the vocals are appropriately sassy.
“We recorded in a studio in the industrial part of town,” says band member Ryan Zweng in an interview with Ominocity. “We could only record at night. So in order to stay awake to work we would throw parties and get all our friends over and some chicks dancing. We would party so hard from 9 o’clock until 6 in the morning.
“That’s why the album has such a party vibe.”
The Vliets – God’s Drug
The Vliets come close to entering chillwave territory on their EP God’s Drug. Minimalist electro-vibes combine with tracer-like vocals and ethereal synths to make for a mellow listen. Or a really downtempo dance party.
Unknown Relatives – 2
Having recently relocated to California from Texas, Unknown Relatives write shimmery, slow burning psych-garage pop songs that abound with retro worship. Expect plenty of ‘60s AM radio crackle within the ‘verbed-out guitars.