Nathan caught up with alt-pop duo Lovers Electric to talk labels, PR and Periscope. This interview appeared in Issue 01 of Follow Magazine. You can get a FREE copy of Issue 01 right here!
As every artist knows there are many ways to express yourself and many ways to structure your practice. Pop duo Lovers Electric are music partners and real-life partners. Eden Boucher and David Turley both have a long and varied history in music and the arts. This particular incarnation of the band has been going for...
David: About ten years I think roughly.
Eden: Yeah, ten years. We were in another band before, the ultimate demo band. It never ended up making any albums, just the singles.
David: We were ahead of our time.
Eden: It was the wrong decade. We thought Lovers Electric would do albums so we started the band with an album about ten years ago.
David: When we finished the first album in 2005 we started working with a manager, Michael Dixon, and that was the first big jump for us as a band. The next big thing was we got a fantastic support spot with 80s band OMD Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark. They took a punt on an unknown band. They were like, “we really like what you guys are doing, we’d like you on board”, so we played 35 dates with them.
Eden: Around Europe and UK. That was amazing. It was a great way just to hone our live show and we got a lot better a lot quicker than if we’d done a gig once a week for a year. That was a baptism of fire.
David: Then we worked with a producer to rework the album to make it a bit more studio polished and we released that through Sony in Australia. After that we recorded the next album in the UK.
Part of being an indie creator is making use of opportunities as they arrive...
Eden: We’ve always travelled a lot . We were home in Australia on holiday when we signed the Sony deal and then ended up staying for an extra year. We just hop where the work is really. We did the second album in the English countryside with another producer and we released that one through Universal in Germany. We’ve been in Germany for a fair bit as well for the last couple of years and we’ve just finished the third album. That was in the Italian countryside that we recorded that so it was pretty hard work.
Lovers Electric have hopped continents and major labels...
David: This is the first independent release really although the last album we released on a major label in Germany and independent in Australia. It was with a distribution company in Australia so it was half independent and half small label. This time is the first time we’ve ever done anything purely ourselves, literally uploading it ourselves and promoting it ourselves all online.
Eden: We have a lot of fans around the world and we don’t tend to have them in one spot more than somewhere else so it kind of makes sense for our band.
The transition from major label to independent release has its challenges...
Eden: there’s a lot less money, not for us personally, for promotions. For the promotion of the albums it’s a big difference. With that money comes a lot of stress and a lot of really irritating A and R meetings and politics with our manager and with the record label and with live agents and booking companies so it has been a stress free release in a nice way. Particularly at this moment in our lives I think that’s what we’re looking for: a sustainable way of doing music that’s enjoyable as well as hopefully successful. There were meetings about the length of Dave’s beard in Germany with Universal and I think that this is probably not crucial time spent on the project but that’s just what comes with major labels. We haven’t had to deal with that this time.
David: Doors open for you easier when you’re with a major label. Even if people don’t know who you are if you’ve got a label attached to your name they’ll sit down and listen to it. Whereas if you’re just one of the thousands of bands emailing in then you may not even get a listen.
We’ve definitely learnt a lot. When you’re with a label a lot of artists can be like, “oh, if only we can just do what we wanted to do ourselves”. When you’re with a label there are some things you need to give up but also I’m really glad we were quite independent within the labels as well. On both releases we had a lot of control.
Eden: We have a really good manager who always makes sure that we always sign deals which have creative control. Quite often we didn’t take a lot of money up front in exchange for rights. Because the creative control has been so important to us more than the money we have managed to keep a lot of the control over the territories that they can release in which gives us more control over the world picture. Which is handy online as well. We’ve been able to do stuff even when that’s been stalled we’ve still been able to do other stuff which has reduced a lot of that stress that our other friends who are musicians feel.
Moving around a lot means the best way to connect with an audience is online...
David: We started off with an email list. Actually we even started off back in the days of Myspace. With the big tour, we did there were a lot of email addresses gathered.
Eden: We always have that out at gigs and fairly prominent on our websites or on our Facebook page. You feel like you’re not hassling people who don’t want to be hassled. We never put people on the mailing list unless they’ve asked and that includes friends and family. It’s genuinely people who want to hear about what we’re doing. It’s a really nice feeling actually, writing to similar people over a decade and them responding and just saying how much they’ve enjoyed following us for so long. You’re not ever sure whether you’re going to bring your audience with you and we’ve definitely lost some audience. The first release we did was very electro, very pop and I think perhaps because we were with a major label we didn’t nurture those fans as much as you would if you were an independent artist. Our audience has dwindled on different occasions because of the style of release and expectation for the album so you’re not building a grass roots network. It’s the big bang approach, radio singles, and I don’t think that’s great for building long term fans. We’ve always really tried hard to keep fans interested and bring out new stuff, interesting stuff to bridge the gaps between albums.
Maintaining an email list is an artform in itself...
David: We don’t email very much at all because we feel like we get sick of being emailed all the time by other bands so we didn’t want to do that. It’s something that we talked about with our manager early on.
Eden: Otherwise you just end up getting a bunch of people unsubscribing because they get annoyed at being hassled. The regular stuff that we do is on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram because if people want to read it they can. It’s not like we’re intruding into their personal space.
David: We email just when there was something really important. Make it a special thing that you get occasionally. A couple of weeks ago we released a new album and I think we sent two big email outs during that time. One a couple of weeks before when the first single came out and then another email once the album was out.
Eden: We did a special once off Christmas single last year. We emailed out to say merry Christmas to people but also to tell them about the video. That was a pay what you want download. That was the bridge between the album idea and that was lovely. We got some really great responses from that. It has to have new information for me to feel legitimate enough to hassle people.
Some bands use a social media manager for their online presence...
David: We have had in the past. Both labels we worked with ran our Facebook and Twitter for a while there but that actually ended up not working very well. We found it was better if we were doing it.
Eden: We just ended up taking it back. Usually after a couple of months they would just not update things enough. It happened both times.
There are always new products and new platforms to exploit for your outreach. Over the last two years Lovers Electric have tried Patreon and Periscope...
David: We’ve been getting into video a lot and Patreon works really well with Youtube. The idea is you have patrons who patronize your music. They say every time you upload a video I’ll give you a dollar or five dollars.
Eden: -towards the cost to make it.
David: It’s linking in with the same psychology as Kickstarter where you’re not just paying for a product, you’re inspired by what someone is doing and you want to support what they’re doing. I think if you have a big Youtube fan base it works but because our fan base is mostly either Facebook or email then I think Youtube didn’t have enough followers to really make Patreon work.
Eden: I think if you had a big youtube subscriber list it could be a success. Like any of the social media things, it depends on what you do and what clicks.
David: I think you have to choose your thing and get in there and commit to it. I think with Patreon we could spend more time on it but I think we just got busy releasing the album and finishing all the videos and we just didn’t have the energy at the time to build up that database if you like. The jury’s out on that one it might still be a really good platform.
Eden: Another one we do is Periscope. Which has been something that I’ve really enjoyed actually because we don’t play a lot of shows because we have been in the studio and we travel around and we have kids. Periscope’s amazing because you can do a live show for just like eight minutes and play a song and have some feedback from people and chat to people and you don’t even have to leave your house and that’s lovely.
David: It kind of works for our fan base being so spread out. There are a few cities that we can get enough people to a show to make it really work but actually our fans are spread out and I think it’s probably more and more common these days. If it’s all happening online then their fan base isn’t just in their hometown which might be where they do some live shows but if they’re on Soundcloud or whatever then it could be anyone, anywhere. Periscope’s a really good response we’ve found to really give people the live experience and it’s been quite fun.
Eden: It’s brilliant and they’re new fans as well. That’s something that we’ve found really interesting. We’ve found a few people, fifty people maybe, that regularly log in but any given periscope that we do there’s maybe one hundred and fifty, two hundred people watching. That’s one hundred and fifty new people that have never heard of us before and that’s something that’s really hard to get. I mean you just can’t get new people like that at a gig. It’s usually people you know. I’ve really enjoyed that part of it. You know you’ve got people listening from Paraguay, to Canada to Europe.
Of course, with new platforms, there is a learning curve and you need to experiment to find out how to make the most of it...
David: I don’t know how to stay in touch with our Periscope audience. It’s such new technology. I think it’s quite separate. It’s new people who are discovering us as a band and as a name and then they follow us just on Periscope. I think we even have more followers on Periscope than on Twitter, which is unusual because most people will tweet out to their followers to say, “hey I’m on Periscope” and then they’ll all jump on. We’ve never really invested a lot of time into twitter so we don’t have many followers.
Eden: We just go with what feels good at the time. I think has to be enjoyable. Because there’s so many different social media things that in a way we’ve just gone with the flow a little bit with what feels like a creative, positive thing to do at the time.
David: -and if it links in with your life as well so periscope just happens to link in really well for doing small five minute shows. It’s quite fun. You get to do things like we’re going live with the single now on Youtube and you click live broadcast and you can be Periscoping that moment.
Eden: It’s enjoyable that’s why I like periscope. I don’t mind Facebook but it’s a bit clunky. With periscope it’s something that we enjoy doing, playing live and interacting with people and being stupid basically and talking crap it’s everything we do well basically all tied into one social media. I enjoy that part of it. I like just chosing the bits for us that work well rather than trying to do them all it’s just a bit of a burden when your an independent artist or a signed artist. If you feel like it’s a burden then it’s not any fun anymore.
There is a myriad of ways to release a video online. Lovers Electric are finding their way through...
David: We’ve done a lot of trial and error. A lot of our fans are on Facebook. It’s a tricky thing, how do you get Facebook to promote or to like what you put up?
We’ve been trying to find the best approach. We released a video. I put the Youtube link up and I put it up on Facebook and then I tweeted the Youtube link; I Instagrammed the Youtube link. When you just put the Youtube link up on Facebook it doesn’t get many views at all. When you tweet the Youtube link and you link the tweet to Facebook that gets a higher view than the direct Youtube link and then when we Instagram a picture of the video with the link to the video Facebook likes that even more and then the ultimate was just putting the video straight on Facebook and the difference was ten fold. Ten times as many viewers watched the video directly on Facebook than through the youtube link.
Eden: It looks sexier too. I think that’s part of it. When it’s a little bit of a convoluted link that’s one step further for people and I think that’s why that works.
David: It’s a bit annoying because we want to build up our Youtube audience and we’re just going to have these random videos on Facebook that are doing better than the videos on Youtube and that’s a bit annoying because the videos on Youtube will stay there for a long time whereas the Facebook videos will just go into the Facebook ether so it’s not ideal. At the same time our ultimate thing is that we want people to hear the music and see the videos so the fact that it works better that way is, well that’s how we’ll do it. We’ll put it on Facebook and Youtube but Facebook will probably pick up the Facebook direct video ten times more in its algorithm and promote it more. As of today I was looking at it and five thousand of our ten thousand fans on Facebook have seen it which is a pretty high ratio given that we haven’t paid any money to boost it.
Eden: That’s a nice feeling as well. I think there’s a thing about numbers and there’s a thing about plays and all that but genuinely you just want people to see it and particularly people that already like your music. It would be great to have 6 million views of your video but at the same time that’s people who click on it for 20 seconds and have a quick look or whatever. People enjoying it is a big factor for me. It has to have that element to it. Otherwise it just seems pointless.
What does an online album release look like?
Eden: We really wanted to do a lot online this time because our fans are all around the world and even though we’re in Adelaide at the moment which is our hometown originally it still wouldn’t be enough to sustain a whole release. We definitely did a bit of promotion towards the lead up of the release and we did these twelve videos and that was a conscious effort because we know that videos work really well online. We thought that’s a really great way of getting the music out to people and hopefully that would help the album as well. We released it mainly as a digital album with the videos but we also did a deluxe handmade pack which I’ve always enjoyed because I think merchandise is a fantastic thing. It always goes well at gigs but seeing as we don’t do very many of those we also wanted to make something that could be posted quite cheaply. There are still fans for us from the first tour that are older people that love to have a physical copy of something. We did a limited edition run of labour intensive screen printed DVDs and we’ve sold out of those which is fantastic so we’ve actually made money which is always a nice added extra. That’s been really successful because you can Instagram those photos as you’re making these deluxe editions so it wasn’t just the digital release, which is not particularly exciting. There was this other stuff going on that I think almost is more effective than what you’re selling.
David: -but it’s also that idea of selling a product that is the special limited edition. It’s more expensive than a normal CD because it’s handmade and it’s got a DVD so it’s this special higher priced package. If people just want the album they can just download it on iTunes. So there’s two different streams if you like that’s something that a lot of bands have talked about working for them. Also with the videos we wanted to do a video with every track because more and more people don’t listen to albums they’ll either stream music or they’ll listen to a track or they’ll watch it on Youtube or whatever. Given that in two thousand and fourteen eighty percent of new artists were being broken on Youtube we know that Youtube is important. Rather than putting all the focus just into an album on iTunes let’s think of each song individually as it’s own entity so even thought the album is already available there’s a new video and song coming out every Friday. In retrospect I think we could’ve even done it every two weeks or even every month and have a year of release. I think that regular individual song release, there’s space for that online; there’s space for people to watch it on Facebook, on Youtube, but no-one’s going to listen to a whole album. They’re going to get the album at some time and then in a different space, away from the computer, away from Facebook they might put the CD on or they might stream the album but as an instant marketing thing I think song by song is the way to go.
Eden: Every song is a single. All bands think every song is a single so it works perfectly for us.
Indie creators spend a lot of time marketing, which is not necessarily a comfortable place for artists to be...
Eden: As an independent artist you feel like it has to be enjoyable. You have to feel like it’s working for you rather than spending five bucks here ten bucks there twenty bucks there promoting on different things and there’s so little money that you can easily end up feeling like it’s pointless and it’s not enjoyable. As an independent artists one of the main things that’s good about it is that it feels good and it feels creative and like you’re being productive and moving somewhere and so I think it’s really important for the vibe to feel right.
David: It has been one of the hardest things to navigate, where to spend money on promotions. As soon as we became independent there were so many people lining up with their hand out to say yeah we can promote it we can do radio plugging for a thousand bucks a month we can do such and such for so much amount.
Eden: PR is so expensive.
David: It’s unlimited the amount of money you can spend and we were just overwhelmed with all the things you can do. Yet it’s true also that you can put a song up on Soundcloud and Youtube and it can get picked up by a blog and go really well without spending any money. Of course as artists you believe in your stuff and you want to pour as much as you can into it whether that’s your energy or your money but also you’re also trying to navigate the best way to do it. We did an EP through a label called AWOL, anyone can sign up, but we did the extra fifteen hundred pounds promotion and a consultant contacted us via email and talked about the package and what we wanted to do and actually it worked really well because she had a little bit more information around tools and how to promote Youtube videos. Whether we got fifteen hundred pounds worth out of it I don’t know. It’s hard to quantify views and stuff in a monetary sense but I think anything more than that and it would be silly. If you’re spending five or ten grand then I think it’s crazy.
Eden: You end up being out of pocket and no one’s listening to it. You don’t want to be in debt.
David: It’s a cliché and a lot of people would have heard it but you’re better of investing in the product, writing better songs and producing better material than better promotions, but of course we all know on Youtube or Facebook you can put the best thing up and it can just disappear. It is that navigation of how to do that. It’s a work in progress.
Lovers Electric can be found here