by Lee Cumberland
Canada’s New Jacobin Club, in case you haven’t heard of them, are a theatrical art-rock ensemble with a small but cultish following of fans from all corners of the globe. Their colourful stage show filled with costumes and sideshow stunts attracts members of every subculture imaginable – steampunks, metalheads, goths, burlesque enthusiasts, cosplayers, horror and freakshow fans, the list goes on.
And if that’s not enough, the founding father of this group recently mentioned something to me in passing that prompted this new blog article on the further evolution of the music industry.
What guitarist/songwriter Xerxes Prateorius Horde said out loud was at the same time both ridiculous and revolutionary; he said
Yes. His words exactly, and I repeated it back to him to make sure I understood. He said that over the years since New Jacobin Club became a completely independent entity under the band’s own record label, he has REPLACED lost music for fans. He went on to explain that several times in recent years the band has received emails from people who had lost their computer’s music libraries from crashes or viruses, and he had replaced their digitally downloaded albums with no questions asked.
In fact, some fans who have tried replacing their digital albums by purchasing them a second time have been flagged by the newjacobinclub.com webstore and then offered either a refund or a special “gift” from the band in addition to the albums they lost.
The origin of this policy goes waaay back, to sometime in the late 80’s.
The Horde tells the tale –
“I remember buying a new SLAYER album on cassette the day it came out, literally right out of the shipping box that just arrived at the record store that morning. I got 20 steps from the music store and ripped open the packaging and slapped the cassette into my walkman. I walked home listening, and I eventually popped the cassette out to flip it over to side B. To my horror the tape ribbon had been sucked into some of the innards of my cheap-as-hell walkman. I managed to extract the ribbon and wind it back into the cassette shell, but now the music sounded like it was underwater and slightly too slow thanks to the ribbon having been stretched.
I trudged back to the music store (I remember it was called “Top Forty Music”) and showed the guys my crumpled tape. It was not a factory defect. My shit walkman ate it. The manager said – “Hmmm…I guess if it only ate THAT tape, it MUST be defective. Here’s a new one.”
I’ve never forgotten it. It was in no way the store’s responsibility to cover my loss – and I spent $15 on that cassette in 1988 or whenever it was….music was still a long ways away from being cheap in Western Canada. They definitely took a hit against my “defective” cassette. I continued to shop there and support them until the late 90’s when I started working for the same company (at a different location) and went on to be assistant manager just before the eventual collapse of the record store a few years after file sharing hit the internet.”
In a warped way you could say the moral of the story is that if make your customers feel like they are always getting the “friends and family” treatment, they will support you like friends and family do.
The Horde has also recently noted that “As time goes on we have come to call our followers “friends” more often then just “fans” – they are our Dear Marked Ones without whom there is no songwriting, no show, no life in music.”
There is no room for egos in the new music industry. The rockstar is dead. All hail The New Jacobin Club and their legions of faithful Marked Ones.
- Lee Cumberland
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