Twelve years ago on All Things Considered, we presented the story of a Boston band that was trying something new to get its tunes to fans: Jim's Big Ego took its recorded music to potential listeners by way of the Internet.
"We do a lot of things the way bands have always done them. We play clubs and colleges. We tour. We're on the radio sometimes," lead singer and songwriter Jim Infantino said then. "We've put out a few CDs, but now we have a more direct connection to our fans."
He started his tale at Ducky Carlisle's South Boston studio.
"When all the parts are done, Ducky mixes it together to sound like a song," Infantino said. "When that is done, I walk away with a CD that has the final song on it, and now I can encode it and put it on the Web. Then I upload it to MP3.com. You've probably read about them in newspapers — they're this huge warehouse of MP3s mostly uploaded by the bands themselves, just like us. They allow us to release the MP3s online and track how many people are downloading them day to day, plus they pay us when our traffic gets really high without charging the person downloading the song, which I think is pretty neat."
This was prehistoric — the year 2000. Before iTunes. People talked about newspapers. Years later, Infantino still thinks digital music is "neat," though the digital landscape has certainly changed.
"The CD has not gone away, yet we keep expecting it to happen," Infantino says. "And yet CD sales outpace digital sales for us. An MP3 has no resale value, so in a sense it has no intrinsic value. It also has no emotional value.
"When you have a collection of MP3s, it doesn't feel the same as having a collection of records. It was Nathan Wilcox — son of David Wilcox, who's a songwriter — who said to me recently that he likes to be able to touch the recording. He likes to have something to hold while he's listening. So that may take a number of different forms. Some people are pressing vinyl, and vinyl has bigger artwork so it has a bigger bang in terms of the physical item. And it may be that people buy the vinyl and don't even play it; they have it all as MP3s, but they have a physical representation of it."
Jim's Big Ego has a new album out called Stay. On the heavily Auto-tuned song called "In My Cult" — think Cher-level Auto-tune — the band gives a survey of world religions.
"We started with a discussion in the band about my own religion, so we then went through all of our religions quickly."
Infantino himself is a Buddhist.
"As [bassist] Jesse [Flack] later said, 'It shows how crazy things can seem from inside your little bubble if you're looking at it from the outside, even though everything seems normal inside the bubble to you,' " says Infantino.