Before LOUD's interview with three of the four musicians from one-year-old band Monster Cat, we downloaded in full their debut album, Mannequins, from file-sharing site The Pirate Bay.
"You downloaded our album off Pirate Bay? Did it work? We hope it did," asked RJ (who goes by the pseudonym Psycho Cat), 27, the alternative folk-rock outfit's guitarist and vocalist. The band had posted the link to The Pirate Bay on their official Monster Cat site.
|(From left) Wang, Syai, RJ and HQ (aka Zen Cat).|
It was all strangely legit. LOUD's download made the band, consisting of full-time musicians with part-time jobs, rather happy.
They're happy to let you download free this month their five-track album - a mix of slow-burning folk-rock tracks that dip in and out of triumph and anguish - which includes original wallpaper artwork and a 15 per cent discount to their merchandise and a well-packaged CD.
But why host a self-funded album of original music (which cost each of the members a four-figure sum to record and produce 1,000 CD packages) on a site that the Los Angeles Times once described as the "world's largest facilitator of illegal downloading"?
"As artistes, it's worse not to get heard. This is a chance for us to get heard by an international audience," said guitarist and lead vocalist Wang (aka Hentai Cat), 27, who added that the band sold 450 CDs and 150 digital downloads before linking up with the site.
"The Pirate Bay has a promotional mechanism called The Promo Bay. They open it up to anyone and everyone who wants to promote their film or music," he said.
So the band wrote in, said bassist Syai (aka Copy Cat), and the site asked its own Facebook group what they thought of Monster Cat.
After a positive response, the band's album photo became the front page of The Pirate Bay's homepage for three days, like Google's daily Doodles, linking users to the band's website and back again to the file-sharing site for the download.
This may sound unconventional, but the band feels it has worked so far. While download figures cannot be accurately determined, Wang revealed at press time that new traffic to the band's site reached 150,000 hits over the three days since their launch on The Pirate Bay.
The move to get exposed may be paying off for the band who own all the rights to their content.
And while the bandmembers have no business background, they feel that business acumen is essential since digital downloading is altering the models of music distribution, ownership and purchasing.
Said RJ: "As musicians, I think we should always take note of digital culture and how it's always changing and shaping consumer habits. To us, file sharing is one of those things that is part of reality and we have to learn how to cope with it and see the opportunities...
"...and co-exist with it," said Wang, finishing his sentence.
This month, Monster Cat is making available their debut album, Mannequins, for free download. Go to www.monstercat.net for more information and check out www.loudr.sg for their newly released music video, Underwater.
This article was first published in The New Paper.