Producer, DJ and all-round creative polymath King Britt has launched a new subscription service, offering an album a month to supporters. Greg Scarth speaks to him about the project and his plans.
We last spoke to King Britt back in 2012. At the time, his attention was focussed on his sci-fi-inspired Fhloston Paradigm project for Hyperdub Records, which eventually led to 2014’s excellent The Phoenix album.
Since then he’s continued to work in typically prolific and eclectic style, exploring themes of Afrofuturism, paying tribute to Sun Ra, and even presenting a Fhloston Paradigm live show, complete with real-time visuals.
2015 sees Britt embarking on another new project, this time a subscription service via Drip.fm, which enables artists to engage with their fans in a deeper way than traditional label models allow. In Britt’s case, that means a new album every month, documentation of the creative process and extended liner notes for all releases.
Attack: Let’s start off by discussing your current project, releasing an album per month via Drip. Can you explain how that came about and what’s involved?
King Britt: Well, funny enough six years ago I had a subscription service through Topspin. I was in from the ground floor as a tester and it went pretty great. Then a few of the original crew left and I wasn’t getting comped for the year even though I helped them for two years on the start, so I just stopped.
you don't get into music to make money, you get into it to make magic. Music is my life, then I figured out how to survive in it.
Fast forward to now, and I was torn between a Bandcamp subscription service and Drip. I emailed Sam [Valenti] at Ghostly about Drip and he linked me with Lauren [at Drip] and boom… it all made sense. Plus they are a bit more focussed and exclusive, which I felt I needed.
Basically, my subscription service is simple. I want to have direct access to my comrades and they have direct and exclusive access to my content made especially for them. I also have a forum there, on which I will start to discuss things of interest and it allows for direct feedback. I will give an album a month of original content, or content from my catalogue that is hard to find or unreleased. What makes it special is the exclusivity. Also, I take lots of time with the liner notes, which I feel are missing nowadays.
My output is a bit crazy. I go through phases of touring but also locking myself in the studio for months. Doing this service is great. My goal is to have 1,000 subscribers by Christmas. $7k per month… that would not be bad.
One of the big cliches of the music industry in 2015 is that nobody makes money from selling albums any more and supporting yourself as an artist is all about making money from DJing, live shows and other revenue streams. So, to play devil’s advocate, why bother?
Well, you don’t get into music to make money, you get into it to make magic. Music is my life, then I figured out how to survive in it. Yes, touring is a major part in making money but also licensing for television, film and commercials.
How hands-on are you with that kind of thing? Is it something you do yourself or do you use an agency?
I have a deal with Third Side Music in Canada for film licensing and such. I just send them music all the time.
Now with a sub service and fan base which supports you, you can really just do music. But it’s hustle to get the word out there without a publicist.
unfortunately many people don't think for themselves, they need to see a review of it on Pitchfork before they listen.
So why not just hire a publicist?
I am [planning to] as soon as I make a bit of money. Publicist is the key because unfortunately many people don’t think for themselves, they need to see a review of it on Pitchfork before they listen.
How much of an impact does the financial security of something like the Drip series make for you? Does it allow you to worry less about supporting yourself and concentrate on being creative?
This is the ultimate goal: for the 1,000 true comrades as subscribers. I’m working on it so I can just make music and not travel as often.
Do you not enjoy travel any more?
I absolutely love travelling, but only when I want, not because I need to do these strings of gigs to pay my bills. It’s a catch-22.
What can people expect from you in terms of the music itself? Does the fact that you’ve got a group of subscribers allow you more freedom to do what you want without worrying about whether there might be a commercial outlet for it?
Absolutely. In the mission statement I explain my eclectic history and how that will work in the creation and freedom of composing these exclusives. They won’t be on Spotify or iTunes, at least not for many years. I may eventually do a huge digital box set release five years from now of all the subscription releases up till that time.
everyone can see the full process. It's about a vulnerability that I am giving.
People will be able to see the many sides of my music and me. The first album, Other Sides are like my favourite B-sides or lost tracks that people may have forgotten from my catalogue. Songs from Sylk130, Michelle Shaprow, and various other projects, with extended liner notes explaining each song.
OmniPresent: A Different View is a collaboration from an exhibit I did with Omni magazine. These songs were inspired by photos I curated for the exhibit from the Omni archives. Musically, it’s an afrofuturistic journey into sonic mayhem.
An album a month is a big challenge. Is that level of productivity normal for you or are you having to push yourself to create more music than you normally would?
It is pretty normal when I’m home and not on the road. So balancing this now is the challenge. But it keeps me very focussed, instead of having five projects half done!
Also, many of the releases may be a process, like demos, and then I’ll release the actual finished ones a few months later, so everyone can see the full process. It’s about a vulnerability that I am giving. There’ll also be some unreleased catalogue tings.
Showing the process is a really interesting part of this project. You’ve done it a little bit in the past with things like the Fhloston Paradigm video for CDM and your recent contribution to Ableton’s Making Music project. What do you think it adds to the finished product?
I feel it adds more to the story, knowing how an artist got to that point. It gives another point of view, even if you aren’t into the technical aspect of it. It shows that it’s all possible, you just need access and of course talent.
Is there any fear that your own levels of quality control might drop – even if only subconsciously – in order to meet the deadlines? What happens if you’re approaching the time when you need to release the next instalment and you only have a couple of tracks you’re happy with?
Quality never bothers me because, as I said before, it’s a service showing process and ideas. So they may be demos and I will make that known and perhaps ask for suggestions from my comrades on how to proceed if I’m stuck – get the people involved in the process.
I hope to also introduce new acts that maybe we collab a bit. I have my label and label night called The Buddy System, in which all the releases are collabs but I don’t reveal who they’re collabs with. So my subscribers will now have access to this months before [the general release].
Finally, who else should we be checking out on Drip?