Guest post by Alex May (@AlexmDrums)
What began as a single musician conversing with like-minded people over the Internet quickly grew into something much more, and paved the way for those people to make a career out of a hobby. Periphery, a progressive metal band, embraced new technologies—such as social networking, self-producing, and direct to fan marketing—which provided them with new ways to meet, work, and live in the digital music era.
Last month, Periphery released their second full-length album Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal, reaching No. 44 on Billboard’s 200 album chart. Every aspect of the band has improved on this newest release, and the progress they have made is even more fascinating considering the band’s digital origins.
Guitarist Misha Mansoor (aka Bulb) frequently posted on several guitar and metal related message boards. He uploaded over a hundred demos to Soundclick and quickly made a name for himself within these communities, being noticed for his musical ability, creativity, and production techniques. When it came time to find band mates, he used this online presence to his advantage, successfully finding members. Once together, the process of arranging and recording a cohesive album began shortly after.
Upgrading his digital guitar modeler and recording straight into a computer, Mansoor was able to record all of the guitars present on Periphery. Drummer Matt Halpern recorded drum takes on an electronic drum kit to trigger pre-produced drum sounds, which maintained human timing, achieved professional sounding drums, and didn’t anger the neighbors. With all of the instruments recorded, Mansoor went on to produce, mix, and master them for their first album, which enabled the band complete control over how it sounded. Calling on the help of a former vocalist to produce the vocals, the album finally completed its production stage.
Armed with a finished album, the band approached several labels looking for the right deal. After turning down offers over the course of two to three years, the band found a home in the United States on Sumerian Records, an independent heavy metal label. Signing with four other labels worldwide ensured that the labels Periphery belonged to could focus on their respective territories. As a result of the album being complete upon delivery, the labels were able to put all of their effort into distribution and promotion; specific to the territory they reside in.
Since the release of Periphery II, the band has been regularly sharing the stories behind each song’s creation from the viewpoint of several different band members. In doing this routinely, it gives the fans something to look forward to, and keeps them checking back often for more updates. Posting YouTube videos from the studio, streaming the full album days before the release, and posting interesting band facts as Facebook updates not only builds up hype for a band, but includes the fans in the experience.
Periphery often talks about music gear and playing techniques in music publications, most recently in Guitar World, and interacts with fans on various message boards. While a single post here and there in response to a fan may not seem like much, it can quickly add up. When fans read these interviews and posts, it reminds them that members in a band often have the same interests and hobbies, extending far beyond music.
For example, those familiar with Internet humor may find comic relief in the song title “Facepalm Mute,” and gamers can appreciate the Final Fantasy references in tracks “Muramasa,” “Ragnarok,” and “Masamune.” This makes the band that much more relatable, as listeners who relate to these subtleties know that the band spends about as much time on the internet and playing video games as they do. While these may seem like little things, it makes listening all the more enjoyable when listeners can turn on an album and know that someone just like them created it.
Musicians anywhere can learn from this D.I.Y. approach. A single Internet user armed with a guitar, dedication, and perseverance found other musicians online and formed a live band of like-minded individuals. They recorded, mixed, and mastered their own music at home and by marketing directly to interested fans, promotional efforts weren’t wasted on those whom are uninterested. Keeping fans updated and involved through social networking helped build interest, so when new material was released, fans were in the know and could obtain it immediately.
Since the release of their first album in 2010, the band has moved from an apartment to a professional recording studio, received considerable hype, and enjoyed great album reviews. They are currently on the Summer Slaughter tour with nine other metal bands, and in October they will be touring throughout several countries in Europe.
While other bands are off complaining about the perils of social networking, leaked albums, and Spotify royalties payments, Periphery have accepted the changes in the music industry and made it work for them instead of against them. The group is a perfect example of how hard work, careful planning, and social media can help a band find fans in the digital age.
Alex May is student at SAE Institute Atlanta studying Audio Technology, and a musician with the hopes of creating, recording, and playing music.