Hip-Hop Duo G-Side Will Release Their New Album, Island, on Bandcamp
Huntsville, Ala. hip-hop group G-Side will release their forthcoming fifth album, Island, on Bandcamp next month. The critically acclaimed duo of Stephen Harris (aka ST 2 Lettaz) and David Williams (aka Yung Clova) began distributing their music digitally in 2001, and they’ll be selling Island exclusively on Bandcamp for the first few months that it’s available: Their label, Slowmotion Soundz, will release the album Nov. 11. This is one of many coups for the growing digital music retailer, and it’s a move that’s similar to the site’s exclusive debut of Sufjan Stevens’ 2010 EP, All Delighted People: The popular indie artist sold the EP on Bandcamp a full three days before it was available elsewhere, and enough people bought it from the site to land it at No. 48 on the Billboard 200 and help bring Bandcamp to an entirely new audience.
Like G-Side’s Harris and Williams. Around the time Stevens’ made the jump to Bandcamp, a friend and fellow Alabama MC named Geoffrey Robinson (aka G-Mane) introduced the site to Harris, Williams, and their manager, Codie G (who also serves as marketing director for their label). As Harris points out in an e-mail interview, the duo had been using sites iTunes, Rhapsody, CD Baby and DigStation to spread their music online, and they were intrigued by the user-friendly nature of Bandcamp. “At the time no artists from our region were using it at all. So it made us trailblazer,” Harris says. The group already began getting accolades for trailblazing musically, with outlets like NPR putting G-Side at the head of a pack of Huntsville hip-hoppers ready to take the national scene by storm.
G-Side’s next move into the spotlight came Jan. 1, 2011, with the release of The One… Cohesive. It gave G-Side the chance to use Bandcamp for a full-length effort and put the site to the test. “After we released The One… Cohesive there was a noticeable influx in users,” Harris says. “Bandcamp links started popping up everywhere.” Unlike other retailers, Bandcamp gave G-Side full access to consumer demographics so they could tell who was listening to and purchasing Cohesive. Along with timely payments from the site, Bandcamp business development consultant Jennifer Elias reached out to the band to ask about the success of their marketing strategies.
Which is part of the reason G-Side have taken to Bandcamp. The other part? Control: Harris says he and Williams are control freaks and will most likely be working on the album until the eleventh hour, as Bandcamp gives the option to upload entire recordings whenever the perspective user wants. The site also has built a marketplace for physical music–vinyl, CDs, and cassettes–which allows for G-Side to create a more personal product for their fans. “It allows us to distribute and manufacture our own product with no middleman and the rates are fair. With this and the information about our consumers we can personalize the CDs they receive via autographs, posters, stickers etc.,” Harris says. “This has opened up tour dates, collaborations, articles and overall personal interaction with the fans who purchased our albums. It closes the gap between the fan and artist.”
The flexibility that G-Side found with Bandcamp has given them the chance to play a little numbers game with their two full-lengths for 2011: the release date for Cohesive (1/1/11) matches that for Island (11/11/11), and it’s a subtle celebration for Codie G. turning 33 this year. “These dates only come around once in a lifetime,” Harris says. “It helps to market both albums so those who missed the Cohesive can play catch up when they purchase Island.” Harris adds that Island is set to have 11 songs and will cost $11.
Charts and marketing aside, Harris says the music on Island is about G-Side first and foremost. ”This time we decided to make the music for us and not try to make singles or records for a certain demographic,” Harris says. “We are making songs to represent our island, Huntsville.”