In the MySpace age a national tour is just a click away

Glossy billboards face off daily against banners across web browsers. Sold-out stadiums are pitted against packed local bars. After over a decade of online saturation some say the indie underdog is winning. Gone are the days when bands relied on hometown gigs and a big break from a record executive passing through town. Musicians can now maintain control over their creativity instead of relinquishing it as soon as they sign a contract. With the arrival of the Internet bringing with it mp3s web-zines blogs and MySpace musicians no longer need outside sources to market their music or book venues. MySpace promises to “let you meet your friends’ friends.” There’s no cost to post musical attempts on a MySpace page which grants immediate access to the friendship of over 80 million members. While some admonish MySpace for creating a false sense of community it does allow a band from one end of the country to connect with a fan-base outside their small circle of friends without the help of a major studio advertising campaign. And now Colourbook a band from Victoria B.C. has used the ingenuity that defines the next generation of techno kids to translate their virtual friend base into the realm of real-life bookings. Colourbook’s fearless integration of off-kilter sound effects and its sad sappy suckerish lead vocals attracted the attention of MySpace friends and fellow Victorians Run Chico Run. With the help of that nationally established band Colourbook was able to forgo studio time and record their CD in their living room grabbing objects from around the house like wind chimes pots and wine bottles to accent their traditional guitar and enigmatic techno sounds. With the CD in the bag Colourbook began plans to bring their sound beyond Vancouver Island. What started as a trek to Saskatoon to play with their friend’s band Fury and the Mouse soon morphed into a full-fledged cross-country extravaganza including a stop at Emmedia in Calgary on July 23. Jordan Minkoff one of the two vocalists and guitarists alongside Aaron Burgunder started messaging bands and promoters on MySpace to lengthen their tour. Initially the band tried to get a hold of people the old-fashioned way — using phone numbers and names other bands had passed on to them. “We had all these contact numbers that other bands had given us and we called them. They were just defunct and nothing was working” explains Luke Postl the band’s drummer. “And then we were like oh we’ll just do it through (MySpace). It’s so easy. We would just go and find a city on MySpace and then narrow down the search capability until we found a band that sounded good. It was so bizarre. There’s a full-on indie community on message boards. We did it with the greatest of ease. It’s really the only way now. We’ll just find some people who live in this town they look like cool kids we like their sound we’ll send them a poster and then they can put it up.” Leaving the advertising solely in the hands of MySpace contacts thousands of kilometres away can have its downfalls. In Winnipeg bassist James Twiddy recalls a show that went completely unpromoted because the two local bands involved each thought the other took care of the advertising. With zero accountability there’s no one to blame and no recourse for the disadvantaged band. While Colourbook isn’t concerned about headcount insisting an audience of four or 40 is all the same to them other musicians expect their advertising on MySpace to sell out shows. A recent article in the New York Times profiled Jonathan Coulton a musician who dedicates full-time hours to building a fanbase. He answers e-mails personally keeps his blog detailed and up-to-date sells T-shirts and CDs and ultimately plays shows in other states with headcounts guaranteed before he purchases a plane ticket. Colourbook can’t dedicate the kind of time required to cultivate a guaranteed following nor do they want to. As Postl claims the band is too “nonchalant” for that kind of commitment. While they might not admit to a concerted effort to sell their band or their image Minkoff certainly relishes creative control over their own schedule and merchandise and says he’s happy with Colourbook’s current level of success. Checking their MySpace page at Internet cafes or fellow bandmates’ homes the band books shows in available slots en route to their final destination of Montreal. Now in their third week Colourbook paid for all the gas in their van’s tank with money from shows and sale of merchandise sewn screened and created with the help of their real-world friends keeping costs at close to zero. Hence the mantra for musicians: creative control is more important than fame and fortune. Today’s bands thumb their noses at the old system they once relied on and aspired to choosing instead to market themselves with mouse clicks and message boards. The question of whether bands can ever achieve the rock stardom offered by the major studios is still up for discussion but to orchestrate a tour ensure venues and secure a fan base across the country Colourbook proves all you need is MySpace and the time to send a few e-mails.