There’s really no reason for me to introduce this amazing interview, but it’s not like I can feature the whole thing on the homepage without a “Read more…” link, because it’s over 2000 words of awesome, so here it goes:
Well shit, that didn’t go so well.
Seriously though, if there is ever a single post on this site I don’t want you to miss, it’s this one.
So don’t miss it.
Note: All links in this post were added by me and not Michal.
What’s going on Michal? Really excited to have the opportunity to talk with you a bit about the industry, I’ve been a big fan for quite a while of both your work and the entire Pretty Lights Music label. People following the blog will know that I touched on the “free music model” in an earlier post where I asked for opinions, but today I’m glad to be able to discuss this with an artist who is out there getting shit done.
1.) So, to start off, how were you influenced into this whole “give my music away for free” idea, was this something that you always intended for a majority of your music or were you influenced by others (possibly Derek)?
Derek and I started by giving the album we did together (“Taking Up Your Precious Time“) away for free. At the time that wasn’t something bands did. Bands (including the one we were in at the time, called Listen) pressed albums and hoped that they would sell, having to convince people to spend money on something they may have never heard of.
This was 2006, and I had been downloading most of the music I wanted off of pirating sites like Napster and Limewire for free since 2000… even if I LOVED the artist who’s music I was stealing.
I was a broke musician. And CD’s were extremely easy to scratch, crack, or lose, plus they cost money to press if you were an independent artist. Since Pretty Lights at the time wasn’t our primary touring group, there was no pressure to make money on the music.
All we wanted was for people to hear the music. The idea was simple: put the album up for free. If people don’t like it, all they lose is a little time, and they can delete it from their hard-drive.
If they like it they can share it with their friends without feeling like they’re stealing from an artist they like. It also helped the album grow beyond geographical boundaries, which is near impossible as a traditional independently released album.
This was before Facebook or Twitter (or atleast before they became HUGE social media tools), and you could reverse search people’s musical interests on Myspace.
So I would spend hours each day searching for people who liked DJ Shadow, Bonobo, etc. and sending them a short, unique message touching on their taste in music and letting them know that there’s a free album they might really like.
Some people wrote back thanking us, puzzled at how we tracked them down. Some people thought we were spammers and wrote us nasty responses, so I’d send a polite response showing them I was just trying to give them free music.
Eventually the word spread and we realized that we had built something with incredible potential.
2.) Certainly there can be expected results when releasing one’s music for free. I have to say that it definitely hasn’t impacted the quality of your works, there’s definitely a passion there that isn’t stifled by the fact that you know your music won’t result in direct sales. You also get to avoid the whole “piracy” issue altogether with free albums, and it is very rewarding for fans such as myself.
Overall though, how do you think this free music model has faired for you personally and the members of your label? Do you feel like releasing music for free is something you are forced into due to expectations of fans and music piracy? Do you feel like new artists are obligated to put out free tracks for promotional purposes?
I think the key to selling a physical release lies in pressing something limited, something special. Something similar to how artists sell limited edition prints.
I personally still buy vinyl of albums/artists I follow because they’re often limited pressings and the look/feel of a 12″ sleeve really lets you dive into the artwork.
The ritual of putting on a record and having to flip it tends to make people better listeners, and records have such a full, warm tone that engulfs the listener.
I usually discover an artist by getting their work for free on the internet. If I like the album, I support the artist by buying it on record, buying merchandise, following their online presence, spreading the word about them, and taking people I think would dig the sound to the artist’s shows.
Touching on the rest of the question, I think the ease of putting up free content has opened a floodgate of shitty music.
Anyone can have a ‘label’, anyone can be a ‘producer’… and I’m not bitter in any way or hating on it, but I think what a free album meant when we release our first record was more about trying to share something you’ve crafted over time and didn’t want to charge people for, whereas now I think a lot of kids post music because they want to blow up in a scene that now has virtual ‘how-to’ guides for producing generic versions of existing styles.
I’ve met very talented kids who have a vision and are able to get it to people through the internet.
But I’ve also met kids who ask me how they can become a dubstep producer and how they can make a tracks that sounds like so-and-so, because these kids see producers and DJ’s on stage and want to be that, not because they have this desire to express themselves but because they think it’s glamorous and easy.
They don’t realize the effort that went into it or the hurdles that each of these artists and genres had to leap to become so ubiquitous. And that’s been happening for years; kids have been buying guitars to emulate their favorite musician.
There’s nothing wrong with that, and I think people SHOULD try to express themselves and give it a go. But now that anyone can upload a track, make up a name, and saturate Facebook, it’s harder to weed through the bullshit.
I guess part of the reason I don’t post a bunch of remixes every week or try to over-saturate the internet is because I want people to be excited about my releases, and not feel like, “Oh, I can skip this one, he drops tracks every week.”
That approach works great for other artists, especially those who’s performances are more DJ oriented, but for me, I want to keep the vision that i’ve been following as clear as possible, by playing sets of my own production (or collaborations) and by making my releases reflect what I feel, and not a remix of what the charts are feeling that week.
Again, not hating, just explaining my personal outlook on it all .
3.) Outside of electronic music, I’m a student of marketing and I happen to particularly love the works of Seth Godin. One thing that he advocates is that technology is pushing us to an age of dominance of the “weird” and away from a “mass market” culture.
In a nutshell, he means that the internet has allowed people to divulge in more specific tastes, and not just the ones that are somewhat “forced” onto them by mainstream channels, such as the music on the radio. Do you feel like this scattering of tastes is beneficial for music in general, and specifically for electronic music?
It’s given everyone a platform, because now someone from a small town, who may have had trouble finding 5 people in their home state that would appreciate their ‘artform’, can get thousands of fans internationally.
On the flip side all these sub genres are getting ridiculous and are dividing an already fragmented audience base in many cases.
But then again, who doesn’t love progressive-indy-electro-post-psy-house-moomba-core-step?
Here’s where I get deep and people are going to assume I’m a glorified smartass: I think as a civilization we have been torn since the dawn of time over different names for the same thing.
Whether it be God, government, sexuality, eating habits, traditions, or music, we find a way to divide ourselves far quicker than we align.
As the world moves faster and faster, and our futures spin out of our grasp, and our planet erodes around us, we seem to find comfort in having enemies to blame, even if they’re imaginary or subconscious.
All these dividing lines, all these statements of ‘individuality,’ all these faux rebellious movements of youthful ignorance and ‘no one can tell me what to do because I’m being myself, just like the Levi’s commercial told me I was’ mentalities just become bullshit that we use to seperate ourselves from the ‘masses’… guess what?
We ARE the masses, and I hope that we can one day be confident enough in our own skin to come together and not be threatened by the idea that other people have the same feelings, fears, and dreams as us.
Everybody farts and has to go poop. Even pretty girls. (my friend Ben taught me that valuable lesson)
4.) Lastly, I have a question from a reader, asked on this topic about you on Reddit: “What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about touring?”
My favorite thing about touring is getting to make strangers happy by sharing a piece of myself with them. Getting to do that for several weeks straight can be both draining and rejuvenating at the same time.
Waking up in different places all the time is amazing… getting to try different food, getting to meet people that make everything that feels fucked up sometimes make sense all of the sudden.
I’ve been fortunate to make great friends all over the country. People that will be in my life even if i wake up tomorrow and everyone thinks my music is garbage.
My least favorite thing is not being able to make music the way I like to. It’s virtually impossible to sample records on the highway. Not having the gear/monitors/space to do things the way I love doing them is probably what’s held up my work flow the most.
I still produce on the road, but it’s having to work around obstacles and having to make compromises. It’s like masturbation vs. really great sex. It gets the job done but you know that there’s a better way .
I also miss being able to cook. I LOVE cooking and being pressed for time it’s often a toss up between subway and the dollar menu.
Now time for some well deserved promotion and name dropping: what can we expect from you in the future? Any albums or tracks we should be on the lookout for? What’s the best places for fans to connect with and get updates from you?
I’m co-headlining a 6 week tour with Gramatik, supported by SuperVision and Paul (select dates) starting in November.
You can check out the dates with links to tix and event pages at www.mmgramatik.com.
I’m really excited to go out on the road as a headliner, being able to bring our own stage and have full lights and a nice, long set.
I’m sure that Paul, SuperVision, Gramatik and I will all be making tracks together on the road.
I’m also working on some tracks with friends like Eliot Lipp, Dominic Lalli, Alex (PAPER DIAMOND), Derek VanScoten, Outlet, Prepschool, Cherub, TwoFresh… I’m really lucky to have a solid set of friends to collaborate and have fun with.
If you want to contact me, follow me on twitter (@michalmenert).
Or go to my website (www.michalmenert.com).
Or find me at a show and talk to me.
Or find out where I live and send me cookies or a nice cake (I don’t like raisins or baked fruit FYI).
Oh, and one more shameless “Im pretty cool” drop: I painted my own album cover. That’s right. I’m artsy.
Lastly, I also want to ask why you don’t have a million followers on Twitter, since you are clearly the funniest electronic producer out there.
There’s probably a few million people looking for Michael Merneret right now on Twitter.
You should see the collection of misspelled marquise signs I’ve photographed: Michel Minert. Michael Mehnert, Manert, Maynart… the possibilities are virtually endless!
And people ask me if it’s my real name. If i had a stage name it would be Troublemouth Clapperslad, or Pants Vermillion.
But probably neither of those.
Can you tell I’ve been up all night?
How to spell/say my name:
- Michal (no E, but pronounced the exact same as Michael)
- Menert (pronounced like the word men, followed by an ert like the -ert in inert)
Welp, that’s all for now (as if that interview wasn’t fucking awesome).
Please note, if you didn’t enjoy that interview, get the fuck off my site, because I no longer want you here .
But seriously though, that was an amazing read for me and I can only hope it was for you too.
If you enjoy Menert’s music (and maybe even share some of his perspectives), show homie some love the very free way by supporting him on any social network you use, and sharing his tracks to Limewire… I mean sending them to your friends!
Both myself and Michal would be very appreciative if you could share this post with your friends so that they might get to check out the interview. Thank you very much for reading!