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The New Album and The New Music Business

The last time John Maxfield released an album on Tantrum Niche Records, it was his biggest hit to date- largely due to the success of his music video for the single, “Smile.” The album, “One Word Is True,” was originally released on November 11, 2011 before being remixed, remastered, and re-released the following January. In addition to making the album available in independent (Vintage Vinyl, Euclid Records, et cetera) and digital record stores (iTunes, Amazon, et cetera), TantrumNiche.com and JohnMaxfield.net posted John’s entire catalog of recorded and released music as freely downloadable MP3s. Many people were surprised by both the label and artist’s mutual decision to release all of the music for free, and a lot of that head-scratching has started again with rumors that the upcoming new album, “Oh No You Don’t Know,” will be released in a very similar fashion.

The people who were puzzled over making albums by John Maxfield and other artists on the Tantrum Niche Records label so easily accessible mostly misunderstood the reasoning behind doing this, until the artists themselves began to explain why they all agreed to do it, and how the enormous benefits made the counter-intuitive idea of encouraging sharing and free distribution. Hip hop artists Jarmel Reece and Tucker Booth shared a release date for their albums, “Tha Holy Bible” and “Too High 2 Fight,” respectively- and though the label made limited, physical, and deluxe editions of those albums- they sold out almost immediately, and the download traffic at tantrumniche.com had reached an all-time high rate of downloads per day.

Though people were downloading albums by Tucker Booth, Jarmel Reece, John Maxfield, and well-loved bands like Velvet Freeze and The Elders for free- there were noticeable ripple effects of the download numbers causing other numbers to increase. Tantrum Niche has been accepting donations from their website via PayPal, by which all net proceeds go directly to the intended band or musician listed in the donation. Tantrum Niche, a very fan-friendly and musician-friendly record label, doesn’t even skim any money off of the donations to the artists it collects for, nor do they collect any royalties or profits from the earnings of it’s roster of artists.

As the musicians of Tantrum Niche had hoped, making the albums free and easy to download has helped them to spread their music faster and vaster.  As more people become aware of the artists and their label, they realize that the best way to offer funding to the label and/or it’s musicians is to donate directly via TantrumNiche.com, or by mailing a check to Tantrum Niche Records, so there is absolutely no deduction from the donated amount. PayPal takes a percentage of the donations that are made through them, but checks and cash donated via snail mail or at concert merchandise tables have no difference between the gross and net amounts.

Another ripple effect of making the donating, downloading, and sharing so easy, legal, and fully encouraged by Tantrum Niche and it’s esteemed roster of talent has been that the numbers on other sites have noticeably gone up since the albums have been made freely accessible, either by streaming or downloading. Brooke Lashley, a very unique singer/songwriter who released one self-titled EP in her career, did so on Tantrum Niche Records just a couple of years before seeing her single “Sooner or Later” pop up as a top 20 hit in Pakistan. John Maxfield’s album and video being freely accessible without any ads caused many radio stations to start playing his music, many more iTunes downloads than he had previously received, and for re-orders of all seven of his albums from stores that were selling them out regularly. Velvet Freeze re-released their album “Wearwithal” as a digital download on TantrumNiche.com, which surprised everyone when it started getting downloaded tens of thousands of time per day, and even more surprise when it became hundreds of thousands of downloads worldwide for an album that was nearly a decade old when Tantrum Niche re-released and promoted it.

With all of that recent success considered, many people have been anxiously awaiting the release of John Maxfield’s new album, “Oh No You Don’t Know” for various reasons. For one, John and his eponymous band have been performing many of the seventeen songs on the new album at concerts dating back to 2011 or earlier. Yet another reason that people have been excited about the new album has been the two leaked early versions of the record, that was good enough to cause many fans to email both John and Tantrum Niche asking them to not change a thing about it. One die-hard John Maxfield fan from Norway wrote him an email in which she actually stated, “I don’t know how you’re making it ["Oh No You Don't Know"] better than it is, or what about doing that is taking so long, but I still believe that somehow you and your people will make it much better than I can imagine.”

Other fans, particularly one from St. Joseph, Missouri, have repeatedly asked Tantrum Niche and John Maxfield why more of his music is not available on Spotify or Pandora. A recent article by a musician who wrote an op-ed for the technology magazine Wired noted that he had a #1 hit which he was a co-writer and performer of, streamed more on Pandora and Spotify than any other song. By the time his portion of the earnings was made, it has a meager $4,000. This would be comparable to, for hypothetical instance, Jack White selling five million copies of his album at Urban Outfitters stores, each retailing for a minimum of $30, and earning him a grand total of $832. The larger portion of the leftover money would go to his parent label (Sony) and the remaining millions would go to Urban Outfitters. If Jack complained to Sony or Urban Outfitters, they would tell him that he ought to be happy and bragging about how popular they had made him, which is supposedly invaluable and priceless- when fame itself is actually rather hollow, fickle, and ultimately meaningless. The people who bought the album would all care way more about if it was a good album, and if so- they’d hope that Jack would make another record, even if for all of the work he put into it earned him enough to buy something like, I don’t know… a pretty nice red suit.

Luckily, major record labels aren’t nearly as interested in making good music as they are in making ridiculous amounts of money. Taylor Swift removed her album “1989″ from Spotify recently, because it was being undersold much worse than it would have 20 years ago by BMG or Columbia House mail-order catalogs. In order to “defy commercial gravity,” as Billboard put it- commenting on her having a platinum-selling record in a time when it’s next to impossible to accomplish that feat, Taylor had to do countless endorsements, tie-ins, magazine covers, and sell her record in places like Walgreens and coffee shops.

Things may be looking bleak for the old-fashioned music business, but it is an exciting time to be young, uninhibited by negative traditions, entrepreneurial, and musically gifted. People of that nature have a shot at reinventing the music business into something that is more direct, accessible, fair, transparent, and most importantly- puts out records that are not mostly a bunch of trite, obvious, par-for-the-course, underwhelming, predictable, derivative, squeaky clean, artless, and boring beyond belief. Tantrum Niche Records, which John Maxfield founded officially in 2002, has defied conventions from the beginning, and will continue to establish and nurture new ways of succeeding in this bleak and bankrupt state of the music business for years to come. The best part is- everyone can help by downloading, donating, and sharing at www.tantrumniche.com.

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Nov 7
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