Interview – Sedulus

London’s Sedulus invest their gargantuan stoner rock riffs with a rich melodic sensibility and a hint of psychedelia. M3 spoke to their band about their ‘pay-as-you-please’ album and EP, and how this method can be used for merchandise too…

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Sedulus – Sedulus are based in London, UK. We play our own brand of heavy stoner metal riffs and groove with layers of psychedelic ambiance thrown in for good measure.

What inspired you to start Sedulus? What is your own musical background?
We have known each other since school and have been in a band since we were about 15/16. A few line-up and genre/sound direction changes happened along the way, as our musical tastes changed. We began playing covers of Nirvana, Metallica, Green Day and 90’s Brit-Pop, Oasis and Blur etc as well as a writing a few originals. Sedulus was born when we settled on the current line up and had got into listening to more grunge and stoner rock & metal.

Prior to forming the band in school, we had each been taking music lessons for a number of years. I actually learned to play the flute before switching to the guitar (a decision I am very pleased about…) Amit, our other guitarist had learnt classical guitar at school.

What was the reasoning behind making some of your recent releases available for free or ‘pay-as-you-please’ download?
We are not really at the stage with this band where we make much money at all. We certainly aren’t anywhere near leaving our day jobs to pursue music full time. So all our activity really is aimed at promoting the band and spreading the word, with the aim of progressing, getting more exposure and bigger shows.

At this moment in time, we would rather people had the music than not have it. If that means giving it to them for free, so be it. But at the same time, we really appreciate people paying for the music, which helps us to keep on following our greatest passion.

We’ve discussed this in depth in the past, do we give our music away for free or charge for it? It does seem that when putting a price on it, people feel it’s worth more?

I think when people see “pay what you like”, rather than “free”, it puts the ball in their court so to speak, so rather than not thinking too much about it and downloading, they have to make a decision – am I going to pay for this, or download for free? We are happy with either outcome – the fan gets the music. Hopefully they will think, “I’ll help the band out and give them a few quid”, as this is my mindset when I buy music as a fan.

The “pay what you like” model is set up for online downloads but we do charge for a physical product, i.e. CD’s, as there are obviously higher costs involved in producing and shipping these types of products. However, we have applied this model to the sales of our physical merch at shows, which has been quite successful at times.

We’re just really pleased when anyone wants our music!

What benefits and/or disadvantages have arisen from this distribution method?
I definitely think we have got some extra sales by using this method. For example, someone who wouldn’t have paid £10, but would pay £5 has gone away with a copy of our music, rather than taking away nothing.

On average, how many people would you say still pay for a release when given the option to download for free?
That’s quite interesting actually, I’d say 8 or 9/10 people pay, even when given the option. It could be anything from 50p or £10 for an EP download.

Would you say this method is a realistic possibility for the future of music distribution?
I think it would definitely have its place, probably when buying direct from the band at shows or via their online merch store. Also perhaps its more for emerging bands as a promotional tool. When bands become more established and have to earn a living from their music, it could be harder for them to leave it up to the fan in this way. Radiohead did this a few years ago, and it was very successful for them. They are such a huge band with a massive following, that they can afford to experiment with these things. If it was to fail, it wouldn’t be the end of their musical careers as could be the case with smaller bands.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Preferably vinyl or CD. We are definitely technophiles in this band and can get quite geeky about high audio quality, file formats and resolution etc. That being said, we all have extensive digital music collections as well (mostly ripped from our CD collections). Whilst we certainly prefer to buy the physical copy of an album, the MP3 players are just too convenient on the journey to and from work!

Where downloads are concerned, I don’t think any of us use iTunes. I have only used iTunes on those occasions where it’s an exclusive track you can’t get elsewhere. Bandcamp (where we host our EPs to download) is the way forward, as you can get a variety of file formats and usually its direct from the band themselves.

Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age
It seems this is the case in mainstream music, where it appears single downloads are the most important thing. You still seem to get the classic 10-12 track album, with 3-4 singles, and the rest “album filler”. You can see why it has gone this way, with the ability to just download the songs you like, why would you pay for or listen to the whole album?

To be honest, we don’t really pay much attention to mainstream music generally, I mean I doubt any of us could tell you who was currently chart number 1! In the genres we listen to and are most active in, e.g amongst the underground stoner rock & metal scenes, singles aren’t generally released anyway. Perhaps this is because it’s all much more DIY, and it wouldn’t really be worth the financial outlay? Certainly we know that the bands we gig with put so much effort into writing an entire EP or album’s worth of quality music, so it’s definitely about the finished overall album, including artwork and packaging as a piece of art.

What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
This is quite a messy and confusing topic don’t you think, and probably deliberately made so? If I’m right, this is about stopping piracy and copyright infringement by introducing legislation which is too broad and could be abused and applied to all sorts of other content which it isn’t intended for, leading to internet censorship.

I’m all for protecting copyright, but I’m against giving any government power in such a broad way, as we know they cannot be trusted to not to abuse it.

Finally, what does the future have in store for Sedulus?
The future looks good for Sedulus! I think we are getting better at being in a band… rather than aimlessly just playing music together, we are more focused on writing music we love, driving us to make a success of the work we put in.

We’re nearly finished recording a couple of our newer songs to go up online, as intermediary while we finish writing a few more and to coincide with our appearance at the first London Desertfest festival in April. In a few months time, we intend to record an EP for a release later in the year. All the while we are rehearsing and gigging whenever and wherever we can… so watch this space!

For more information about Sedulus, you can visit their official website and Facebook page, and you can download all of the band’s music through their Bandcamp page.

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About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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