Taking their cues from 80’s hardcore stalwarts like Bad Brains and Reagan Youth, Amsterdam’s Gewapend Beton have been blasting out a vintage punk rock sound for almost a decade now, and show no signs of stopping yet! The band took some time out to tell M3 about the good sides of downloading and digital distribution…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
GB – We’re a band from Amsterdam and we play loud music. Think Motörhead mixed with old English punk like GBH and American hardcore à la Poison Idea and keep in mind we also like Black Sabbath.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
We earn serious income from neither records sales nor touring. So yes, there is not any money in record sales but no, touring is not the most efficient way to earn income. But for other bands this might indeed be the case. But then again, touring is more efficient anyway, especially for smaller bands, as that way you just sell most merchandise, and thus records, at your shows. Although my initial answer is formulated a bit bluntly, I do think there is truth in it for other bands. Small bands should be very happy with the new digital distribution channels, as it is the ultimate means to promote your band within and beyond national borders. Small bands that complain about limited record sales should think about how this would have been in an age in which the distribution is very burdensome and costly: probably even less. I even think that the larger artists enjoy more exposure and thus more ticket sales, which is a larger source of income anyway. So the only actor that really suffers from downloading and digital distribution is the middleman: the record label.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
I think it is partially untrue, as there is a recent revival of vinyl again, both in electronic and rock music. The people that are into these kinds of music generally care about having something ‘real’ like an LP in their hands, instead of a digital file. And moreover, DJ’s in electronic music prefer vinyl over MP3. I think that the statement is more true for the hit parade music, which will be downloaded more at the expense of record stores. And as for the extent to which the ‘death of the record store’ is a tragic loss: for those stores that sell records to those people who really love it and have a (somewhat) special and specific taste it would be a tragic loss if they wouldn’t survive (which in my opinion does not happen that much). The loss of record stores that don’t keep up because they only sell hit parade music can be seen as a necessary part of progression rather than a tragic loss.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
It won’t be a surprise that I prefer vinyl. Besides the fact that it feels good to hold something real, I think the sound is generally warmer and fuller than the sound of the other media. Listening to vinyl forces you to be engaged with listening music, since the LP has to be turned over every now and then, which for me personally encourages me to take my time to listen to the music. I also think that artwork is or can be very important for the atmosphere that an album can bear. This effect is obviously exponentially increased when printed on LP size.
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?
I don’t think it is a simple one-on-one relation like that. First, I think this phenomenon of people not listening to the album as a whole has been around for decades already, since CD or even before that with mix tapes. Secondly, albums are also downloaded as a whole. So in that sense I wouldn’t say that it is per definition more or less the case than before music was distributed digitally. Actually, I don’t really know. But it is still up to the listener, isn’t it? Whether they want to hear the album as a whole – which I as an artist would encourage – or just a couple of songs at the time depends on how they like it best and is therefore up to them. A record is still different from a book, the chapters of which don’t make any sense independently from each other. Songs in themselves keep their value, even though it might have an added value to hear them in the larger whole of the record.
Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
Like I said, I don’t really see that much of a problem in downloading and digital distribution. Both for small bands and the big artists there are many benefits in an easy and rapid means for the distribution and promotion of your music. Offering your music via such sites is a good way to offer your music in the best quality and in the sequence and with the artwork as intended by the artist. Some artists even ask for a voluntary donation, which – with an average of let’s say 2-3 Euro – would not be that different from the revenues of real records sales since there are no middle-men that take their share. Concerning illegal downloading, it might be interesting to ask yourself whether that is a problem other than the lack of payment that it entails.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
Make sure you know how the internet works and how to make a nice looking and well-functioning website and Facebook band page. The main challenge in this is to make sure you stand out, in whatever way. The ‘downside’ of this war of allen-gegen-allen in which all have an equal chance so to speak, is that everyone jumps in and it is not easy to be heard – even when your music is indeed different or better than the mass.
Finally, what does the future hold for Gewapend Beton?
A continued period of regression and hence a new record.
For more information about Gewapend Beton, you can visit their official website, and find them on Facebook and Soundcloud. You can also watch Gewapend Beton’s latest video for the song ‘Big Dumb Kids’ here.