Kevin Jordan and Anthony Del Grosso are This Wild Life – a band which has moved from pop punk, playing dates on the Vans Warped tour, to a softer more acoustic sound. Stories about transition are always interesting. Kevin and Anthony are working collaboratively across the internet to create new music while at the same time they’ve left Epitaph where they had been signed for 5 years in order to control their band’s destiny. Kevin and I spoke at length about the band and its new trajectory.
If you’re not familiar with This Wild Life, a good place to begin is with their experiment in self making a video for the song You Changed Everything. Here, the band tips its hat to elevator music with a small space performance allowing them to be extremely accessible to fans. This musical journey, complete with tuxedos and sparking cider literally brought fans up and then back down as they became immersed in the song. I think this video showcases the band’s sound and their gentle nature which belies their tattooed exteriors.
During the conversation I had with Kevin he explained how much flexibility This Wild Life gained by forgoing renewal of their record deal and taking full ownership of their future. He and Anthony decided to cover someone else’s song which they found on TikTok and put it out. They recorded it on a Monday night and by Thursday it had been released online with access from a variety of streaming services. It’s that speed that differentiates being in control of your own destiny and that of answering to the needs or requirements of record deal oversight. No one had to approve the song or be involved in either the technical functions of building the track or how it was released. Within four days the song was started, finished and available to hear. Now, their goal is to release 20 tracks this year. The 2020/2021 goal is output.
As I continue to write stories about how acts adapt to the Covid-19 restrictions, I find so many variations of how to persevere. Kevin Jordan is in Phoenix and Anthony Del Grosso is in Salt Lake City. They still write music together, but now their collaboration takes place over video and internet links. The ways in which file sharing, video communications and other online co-working software has moved to the forefront over the past three quarters now facilitates the ability to create across state lines as efficiently as being together in a recording studio or rehearsal hall.
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Their new single is Nothing Hurts Like Love The First Time.
When trying to understand why a band which has a major label recording contract would choose to leave and go off on their own it is important to understand recording’s basic economics. Let’s talk about record label math. Many bands like This Wild Life enter into a joint venture deal with a record company. Typically, these deals run for a set time, say five years, and require a minimum number of albums. This Wild Life was committed to making three records for Epitaph Records, an independent label founded by Brett Gurewitz, guitarist for the band Bad Religion. As in most deals, Epitaph advances the costs make each record, then recoups it from royalties as the record(s) sell. What makes this difficult for bands is that the money to make the record is essentially a loan from their label. As the records sell or create other royalty streams, half of that money belongs to the label outright, and half to the band. However, the band’s portion is assigned to the label to payoff the loan(s). As a result, the record company earns half of the revenue from the start as their profit share, while the other half which belongs to the band goes to pay off the loan. If you think about it, the band is basically trading half of the revenues from their music in return for a loan which they alone must pay back, with interest. It is a terrible deal. In addition, typically the label also gains ownership of a portion of the mechanical rights – the royalties which come from radio plays, sheet music sales, or commercial uses of music as in advertising, television production or movies.
As I continue to chronicle the ways in which artists are maintaining through this pandemic, I am starting to see more and more attention paid by artists to the economic details of all aspects of their career. Where once the revenue from ticketing was often sufficient to cover the expenses of delegating the financial elements of running a music business, now the combination of no tickets to sell plus the interconnectivity of the internet allows bands to combine musical proficiency with entrepreneurialism. Why pay half your profit to a partner who has little incentive to be cost conscious when obtaining studio time, engineers, or the design time to help create your recording? Instead, raise the money yourself to make the master, hire the experts you need and rent your facilities after negotiating carefully, after all it is your money being spent and you keep all the profits. Lower overhead is one of the fastest ways to higher profits. That is the way of the world now, and music is starting to catch on. The future is diverse income streams and self-sufficiency.
Here is our conversation:
This Wild Life is using their time off the road to communicate with fans by upping the speed and frequency in which they release new music. For as long as I can remember the refrain I heard was artists struggled to find time to be creative while they toured. The new normal is there has been nearly a year when everyone is home. There is a tsunami of new music headed our way. Keep your headphones charged up and step away from the television now and then. This Wild Life has something for you to hear and more on the way.