Indie band Quiet Company and the terrifying, murky waters of streaming sites and social networks

quiet company If there’s one event that can help you understand the discord between the Internet and music industries, it’s SXSW. At one bar, you’ll get to discover the local up-and-comer, and at the next, the corporate sponsored, Twitter-promo’ed star who’s been headlining tours for years. And in the mix of it all are the likes of Pandora, Spotify, and Grooveshark – the streaming companies that have defined (and in some opinions, destroyed) the lay of the music land.

The way bands navigate this new terrain is both necessary and terrifying – just ask local Austin indie-folk group Quiet Company. “I kind of feel that if the Internet were one person … I do feel like someone would be obligated to assassinate it,” says frontman Taylor Muse. “It does great things, but it also ruins everything it touches.”

He’s speaking, of course, of how digital music consumption has turned albums into files, and listeners into users. “I think for years now, as far as back as [Quiet Company] has been together, people have been talking about how different the music industry is and how the Internet has changed everything and how we’re all looking for a new model.”

“After everything, I’m not sure there is a new model. The old model is still the model, it’s just that the Internet made it way worse.”

To be certain, Muse and Quiet Company have a love-hate relationship with the intersection of music and technology. About two years ago, at SXSW as fate would have it, Grooveshark approached the group about a partnership in which it would hugely promote them to its users. “They said they were starting an artist development program,” band manager Paul Osbon says. “In part to show that, you know, you don’t need a record label to get exposure. And we were sort of the guinea pig for that.”

The group worked with Grooveshark (a streaming site like Spotify) for 18 months, even releasing an album with the company’s help (and heavy promotion). “In about three months, we went from 2,800 Facebook fans, to 55,000,” says Osbon. Thanks to the partnership, Quiet Company has amassed a huge following in Spain, and found new fans it never would have.

But now the contract is up and not being renewed, because – you guessed it – a monetization strategy couldn’t be found for Grooveshark. “We were the test monkeys,” says Osbon. “It didn’t go like everyone thought it would, but it still ended up being great for us.”

Not only for the exposure, but for the analytics. Despite any ill will toward technology from his band, Osbon has known the power of social metrics. “They gave us tons of info – what type of toothpaste our listeners used, what shoes they wear. If they had found a way to translate that into sales, and market that…”. Osbon says that Quiet Company makes a considerable amount of its revenue off of merchandise sales, as well as increasing digital sales. Strangely, he also tells me that vinyl sales are going up – oftentimes from fans who don’t even own record players but want to keep the records as mementos.

While these speak to Quiet Company’s growth, a streaming parternship doesn’t appear to be in the band’s future. Quiet Company remains the only band Grooveshark has poured its efforts into, and Grooveshark the only streaming site Quiet Company has officially partnered with. And it might be the last, given it frontman’s feelings toward the collective market, which can be summed up as “a necessary evil.”

Muse doesn’t like Spotify and it’s invading ways, or Facebook and it’s selective News Feed attitude. But Quiet Company are not luddites – in fact, they’re just picky. “What really made music social, when we debuted tracks for our last record, was That was super cool!,” Muse says. “We got all our fans in there and it was so fun to me, and such a natural way to say ‘hey, we actually care about this band, you should check it out, and here’s some of our music too.'”

He and Osbon both also mention TheSixtyOne, a now-very quiet site that used game mechanics to win bands new fans and elevate them to homepage status on its site.

And of course, before there was Spotify or – before there was even Facebook (can you even imagine such a time?) – there was Myspace. “Myspace was always better for bands than Facebook,” says Muse, echoing, easily, every band ever. Of course, both Muse and Osbon admit they currently don’t use the band’s old Myspace account because they can’t access it or remember the password. They plan on getting on board with the new Myspace, but wonder – as everyone else has been – how or when their fans will get there.

Muse and Osbon’s real disillusionment, however, is with Facebook. Their gripes are familiar: What “other” inbox are you talking about?! How few of my friends and followers see my posts a day?! You’re going to charge me to message people?!

I tell Muse, who isn’t a Spotify fan, that the streaming application is actually how I began listen to Quiet Company. He and Osbon consider it, and then challenge me – but do I buy music? The answer, as most members of my generation would agree, is rarely. However, I counter, I buy far more concert tickets and merchandise than I likely would. I also take a lot more interest in the people making my music, following them on Tumblr and Instagram. Both seem to appreciate this point, but I’m mostly playing Devil’s Advocate, because I share in their frustration. I don’t own my music; it’s content I’m borrowing from Spotify’s cloud – and if Spotify doesn’t have rights to something I want, well then I’m out of luck and forced to move on to the next streaming client and start yet another account – which I’m unlikely to do. Instead, I’ll just forgo listening. 

“It’s all become so disposable to listeners,” says Osbon. “You don’t like something within the first 30 seconds, you delete it or skip it and move on.” And he’s right: Entire catalogs of music wait before me to be consumed, why waste time? Because, they argue, there’s an appreciation that comes with age. “Most of my favorite bands, I didn’t like them the first time,” says Muse. 

While Quiet Company owes much of its exposure to the Internet, they also have plenty of their own hangups when it comes to navigating this ever-changing landscape – just like every last one of us. But just like every last one of us, they know they can’t avoid it. 

“You have to use social networks,” says Osbon. “People sort of think it’s like selling out – but everybody thought licensing was selling out, too. But you really have to do it.”


Breaking: Amazon won’t build headquarters in New York in face of opposition

Amazon has canceled plans for a New York City headquarters afer citizens, civic groups, and politicians pushed back on Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's exclamation of economic joy over Amazon's earlier…

After Twitch ban for using homophobic language, musician Deadmau5 apologizes

Electronic musician Deadmau5 has been suspended from Twitch after using homophobic language during a PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds match. The musician later said he wouldn't be returning.

Smartwatch sales soared in 2018, with Apple leading the charge

The NPD Group, a market research organization, has reported smartwatch sales soared in 2018. Apple is leading the charge, but it's clear there's still room in the market for competitors, as Samsung and Fitbit also did well.
Home Theater

Everything to know about Sling TV: Channels, pricing, and more

Sling TV has grown a great deal since its launch. Now there are more channels and more packages to chose from, with prices to match, and more is being added all the time. Everything you need to know is right here.

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've handpicked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.

Schubert left Symphony No. 8 unfinished. A smartphone’s A.I. just completed it

We all know computers can be used to make music, but can artificial intelligence be used to not only generate music, but complete one of the most famous unfinished symphonies of all time? Huawei has used its A.I. to find out.

Spotify could terminate accounts of listeners using ad blockers

Bad news for those who block annoying ads on Spotify -- the company has updated its Terms of Service to explicitly ban ad blockers. Consequences for users found circumventing the rules include suspending or terminating your account.
Home Theater

Apple's new AirPods could arrive within months, pack health sensor tech

Apple may release new AirPods in the first half of 2019. A wireless charging case, health sensors, water resistance, and better Siri integration are some of the improvements rumored to be part of the new package.

Donald Glover is (somehow) first rapper to win a Grammy for Song Of The Year

Donald Glover (AKA Childish Gambino) has become the first hip-hop artist to win Song Of The Year, an award that had illuded countless other popular rap artists for decades.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.

The 25 best love songs on Spotify for your wooing pleasure

Valentine's Day comes but once a year, but love is forever. If you're hoping to impress your significant other -- or if you're trying to procure one -- we put together a list of the best love songs for your wooing pleasure.

Rock out in the carpool lane with Singing Machine’s Carpool Karaoke microphone

Carpool Karaoke fans can count down the days till summer. That's when Singing Machine's Carpool Karaoke microphone will be available. Connect the Carpool Karaoke Mic to your car radio to make your next road trip a mobile karaoke party.

Switch your WMA files for MP3s with our quick conversion tips

The WMA codec may be great when it comes to multi-channel surround sound, but unfortunately, it falters in terms of compatibility. Check out our guide on how to convert WMA files to MP3 via web-based or desktop methods.