I’m always interested in hearing where that sort of falls in with people because I guess I’ve always been smidge critical of playlisting.
Are you kidding me, it’s essentially payola! It’s payola for a new generation. I’m sure that will go away once it gets properly regulated, once people see Spotify as the new radio and as a public platform that everyone uses to access music. It would be great if it could be regulated the way that radio is right now.
Did you have any further thoughts on the idea of the regulation of music platforms?
When Priests put out our new record, we decided to put it out on our own label but we knew we needed more infrastructure. We decided to sign a distribution deal with Secretly Distribution. SD is a group that distributes many labels, which essentially means they store our catalogue in a nice warehouse and ship it out to stores around the country and sub-distributors around the world, and because a bunch of labels are banding together, we save money on shipping. SD also digitally distributes our catalogue and again, that’s because a bunch of labels have banded together in SD and SD in turn banded together with other groups into a bigger group called Merlin. [They] have more lobbying power than we did when we were just doing it ourselves through platforms like Tunecore [or] CDBaby, where you’d pay a one-time-a-year fee, and it’d perform how it’d perform; no one is pushing it. You could get lucky, but you probably won’t.
Through Merlin, we can lobby for digital platforms to pay attention to and spotlight our upcoming releases. This gives us a little bit of the type of access to DSPs that big labels like [a] Universal, Sony, and Warner. Some artists will get lucky and blow up because the right playlist finds them and then another until you have a domino effect. That’s what happened with Snail Mail, and I’m very happy that happened. But for artists that are on big labels, they have people pushing their music all of the time, they have special backroom deals with Apple Music, Spotify and they can get financing to make videos if they’re willing to say, ‘People can only see my video or single for a week on your platform and you’re going to give me a bunch of money to do that’ and that’s the deal we make.
We’re starting to get access now that we’re part of Merlin but we still don’t have access like Sony, Universal, or Warner do. And having that backroom access, if Spotify continues in the trend that it’s moving right now and becomes the only way that people listen to music, can really make or break an artist. The backend access on something like Spotify or Apple Music is so fucked. It’s crazy how crooked it is and I say that as someone trying to get a piece of the crooked pie. I’m trying to not get my artists fucked. I’m trying to get my artists enough notoriety that they can tour and make money. And to do that, I have to play this crooked game and even then I’m a peon in that pie.
What would regulation do to help this situation do?
There are historical analogies; that’s why I bring up payola. Radio stations were big taste-makers back in the day and the primary means through which listeners discovered new music, much like the big playlists are today. You know if you look at someone who’s super young like…
Billie Eilish is a great example of someone who had industry backing. You know their audience is huge because they have all of this muscle behind them and what was happening in the 50s was that artists would break cause these big national DJs would play them. It was all through bribes on the backend, it was all people being like, ‘You have to talk to me, I’ll pay you to play this’ and to me, it’s essentially the same thing, except that rather than bribes, it’s about who has the biggest money and the most leverage. The same way that labels in the 50s got radio access through bribing DJs. Then Congress stepped in and said that the radio waves are a public utility and you can’t be paying to get on them. These are supposed to be curated by people’s tastes or what’s popular, and they made it illegal and outlawed the practice.
Could you say a little bit about the upcoming record that y’all have coming out?
Sure, the Gauche record is called A People’s History of Gauche, it’s kind of weird because these songs were recorded two years ago and we were just in mixing hell for so long. But through the genius of Don Godwin over at Tonal Park, we finally got it done. Then our friend who works at Merge, Dave, was like, ‘Can I show this to Mac and Laura?’ and we were like, ‘Sure’ and then they were like, ‘We wanna put it out’ and we were like, ‘Yay, that’s amazing’.
It’s like amazing punk music that’s just about the stuff that bothers us in our everyday lives. I think that everyone who plays on the record is a total shredder making beautiful music, and I think it’s fun to listen to. I think a lot of punk music can be dogmatic and preachy and the strength of Gauche is much more the idea of ‘If you can’t cry about it, dance about it’. The catharsis is through joy and expression, and I don’t think it comes across as angry even if the catalysts made us angry. That’s essentially the content of the song and the formal mode, the medium, is this is a much more joyous, cathartic, dance-oriented kind of thing.