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Digital downloads are king, right?

Sure they are — if you’re online. Why would I leave my cozy seat in front of a laptop to schlep into the real world to buy a CD? I may even need to use social skills while dealing with staff workers. Yeah, I’d rather open up Spotify I think…

What About Live Shows?
What if I’m a young band and most of my sales happen at the merch table?
-Download Cards are inexpensive for everyone, but not only does it do almost nothing to build your band’s brand, it also feels weird to pay $5 or more for a notecard. They are just barely more tangible than a download itself.
-Vinyl+Download Card is expensive for the band and the fan. Though vinyl is a growing market, it’s still a small one.
-CDs are stuck in the middle. It feels like it’s worth paying for, but that’s because they are expensive, especially for something that gets ripped to a computer and added to the drink coaster pile.

There’s got to be a better way…

A Better Way
This is where The New Complainers ( were when they were ready to release their basement-recorded album, “I Am Home.” To their fans music is digital. A bunch of city-slickers without cars (which is the last place CD players exist, I think). To them, listening to music is digital.

Fans of The New Complainers enjoy more than just audio files, they love hanging out with friends, drinking, remembering old times. Most of all, they love the next morning: cracking up through mouths of bacon, figuring out what actually happened the night before. Friends. Memories. Nostalgia. The New Complainers.

So The New Complainers decided to buy an instax instant film camera and take tons of photos, photos of places they’ve been, things they’ve done, and the people they’ve done them with. Then, the band individually numbered and named each photo, slapped a bandcamp download sticker on the back, and bam! We’ve got a record. Fans at shows pick whichever photo they want. “Oh look, I want the one of them screaming in the studio, or check out this one of them all wearing jean jackets. Ha! It’s titled ‘Canadian Wedding!’”

What Does This Mean?
Well, a lot of things. Suddenly, the merch table is interactive and personalized. Merch options are no longer standardized, as with CDs, but they are unique, personal, and hand selected by the fan. Now, at a show, a digital download means something to the fan, has a low overhead, creates interest in the merch table, and helps brand the band. Guess what? More people at the merch table means more people buying records, shirts, matchboxes, stickers, or anything else The New Complainers sell. And people talk about the photos with the band, make connections, make conversation, make smiles.

At the end of the night, after the last band plays their encore, everyone goes home with their newfound treasure — but the engagement doesn’t stop there. The next day the New Complainers upload digital version of each Instax to their Facebook page, where fans are encouraged to tag and share. Online to offline to online to offline…

Fan: Oh, this photo is awesome! But what are you guys looking at on the computer?
Complainer: We’re google image searching geoducks.
Fan: What’s that?
Complainer: Uh… it’s a strange looking animal that looks like a male… nevermind, just google it yourself.
Fan: Right on! Thanks Complainer!

You’re welcome.


Jacob Rosati is 22 and spends time making musicmanaging music, and losing his glasses while stomping. Also Described As: Amateur Chemex Enthusiast, Shrimp Tank Owner, and future Bonsai Tree Expert.

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