Bomb the Music Industry!
Who knows how most people get into the music that they do these days? MTV has all but gotten out of the music business. Mainstream radio is unquestionably terrible and practically the only place to buy CD’s is Best Buy. What’s left is the Internet, the blogs, Pandora Radio and Jason Schwartzman’s Celebrity iTunes Playlist. There is no common thread on the Internet. There is no mainstream. As a result, recommendation, association and word of mouth have become powerful tools. People have no choice but to seek out their music.
There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Bomb the Music Industry, and it might be because it’s nobody’s job to make sure that you have. If the music scene is a big house party, Bomb the Music Industry are hanging out in the kitchen with enough beer to last the night, making jokes, causing ruckus and having a blast. Meanwhile, the people upstairs trying to get laid, the kids waiting in line for the bathroom to sniff coke, and the people smoking on the couch are all beginning to wonder what’s going on in the kitchen and whether they might be missing out on the real party.
BTMI was started by Jeff Rosenstock in 2004. He posted a few songs he’d written and recorded onto his website. The songs had a melodic punk rock sound with the occasional ska influence as well as electronic drum and synthesizer programming sprinkled throughout. These elements by themselves make the band’s sound interesting and unique, but it’s the songwriting that makes BTMI something special. The song structures are more complex than the bands they draw from or the bands to which most would compare them. Rosenstock’s songwriting sensibility is infectious, often revealing itself slowly, growing into something bigger and grander than one would initially anticipate, more comparable to the songwriting style of Brian Wilson, Joe Strummer or Isaac Brock than that of Blink 182 or Fat Mike.
Then there’s the kicker. The music is all one hundred percent free. Jeff has been putting the band’s songs on his website for free download since their first record. At Shows, the band brings a computer, stencils and spray paint. If a kid wants a BTMI CD or shirt they need only to bring a blank CD or T-shirt to be burned or spray painted on the spot. Fans who know how to play any BTMI songs are also invited to bring their instruments to shows and join the band. Jeff has also started Quote Unquote Records, a digital label where bands like Chotto Ghetto, The Riot Before and Cheap Girls, release their music, donation only. Even without BTMI, the bands in Quote Unquote’s current lineup make up for some of the most talked-about bands punk scene.
Six years after Bomb the Music Industry’s inception they have recorded five LP’s, the two most recent released by Asian Man Records. The band is getting to the point where they pack basements a little too tightly, the word of mouth beggining to echo beyond the DIY punk community. Their situation is comparable to the one that Against Me! was in a few years ago, a band with very specific DIY ideals, a number of great records under their belt, and a huge fan base with great hopes for them and what they will do next
It’s not hyperbolic to call BTMI pioneers of the digital music age. They stand as an ostensible answer to the question, can a band survive and make music successfully in an age where digital music is of such little monetary value? Will people donate money for music if they don’t have to? Forget about bands like Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails who have taken a similar route but with major label PR money already under their belt. What about the underground? Jeff has shown that it’s possible to make it work, and more importantly that we live in a time where doing it yourself is not only an important and prevalent idea, but one that is, perhaps, superior to the alternative.
To “bomb,” something, according to the movie Style Wars is to put one’s mark on it. That being the case, naming a band Bomb the Music Industry, in itself may seem like a grandiose statement, but all things considered, in Jeff’s case, shit’s been bombed.