It’s a very tricky thing for artists to make money in the music industry these days. And trying to cash in on the extremely low-profit genre of streaming services such as Spotify, which pay artists a pittance for every song streamed, is even more difficult. But Vulfpeck, a band hailing from Michigan, came up with an ingenious way to use Spotify to fund its latest tour by convincing fans to constantly stream a completely silent album called Sleepify. And although Spotify recently pulled the album, the plan totally worked.
In a hipster-esque call-to-arms that’s rife with understated humor, Vulfpeck’s bandleader, Jack Straton, described the clever ploy to fans via a video blog preceding Sleepify’s March release. In order to put on a free tour, Straton asked fans to cue up the band’s 10-song silent album every night before bed. At $.005 per play, he proposed that the band could make $4 per night from every fan, as their devices whisper through the tracks of dead air. And as a clever incentive to participate, Vulfpeck’s forthcoming tour is set to be centered around cities in which fans played the album the most.
Spotify requested Vulfpeck take down the album after nearly a month saying it violated its terms of content, but the band reportedly made around $20,000 before Sleepify was pulled. In a recent interview with the UK’s You Need To Hear This, Straton filled in the blanks about how things went down.
“I think they panicked when they realised someone was actually making money from the music,” Straton said. “I haven’t heard of any (copycat albums) yet but in the email asking us to take it down, (Spotify) said they were receiving similar silent submissions.”
Vulfpeck has gotten a lot of publicity for the little ruse, and expects to go on tour for free as planned, as long as Spotify pays out the money. Straton said it takes around two months to get paid, so the band should see the check sometime this month.
The notion of putting out the “sounds of silence,” so to speak, is nothing new. Composers and music historians will be familiar with John Cage’s famous “4’33,” which consists of an ensemble sitting before an audience in complete silence for, you guessed it, four minutes and thirty-three seconds. However, while Cage’s “piece” was billed as an introspective auditory experience of the audience’s own uncomfortable fidgeting, Vulfpeck’s “recording” is based around a decidedly more common theme in modern music: broke musicians.
We highly recommend checking out the original video below to get a taste of Jack Straton’s deadpan-humor-turned-brilliant-media-blitz for yourself.