So who is Momu? Why is almost every track named after a location in San Francisco? What unique sound from a viral video was sampled and used in the track Google Bus? Why spend the entire promotional budget on a pre-order contest instead of a publicist or ad campaign or music video?
Who Is Momu?
Mark and I started making music around 2000 and put out our first single “This Is Momu” in 2001. Through 2005 we produced an enormous amount of music and were credited with co-inventing the “progressive breaks” genre, with releases on Bedrock, Global Underground, and half a dozen smaller labels. Since then we’ve opened up our sound to influences from almost every kind of “broken beat” (jazz, hip-hop, dubstep, trap) and the new album reflects that.
Our most recent album Rising hit the #3 album spot in Beatport’s Chill-out genre. We’ve licensed tracks to TV shows including CSI and had some big videogame and advertising placements (including a Pandora ad).
Like all producers Mark and I are addicted to that moment when the sketch you’re working on “clicks” and you look at each other and realize that there might be something there. It’s a good feeling but also a strange one … you never know when it’s going to happen (and it doesn’t always happen). There’s usually some amount of chaos that precedes that moment: a mess of audio tracks and MIDI tracks and weird effects and too many sounds. Then you strip a few things away, move a bit here and there, add a layer, and suddenly, sometimes, the sketch takes on a life of its own and starts to tell you what it wants to be.
The New Album “The Mission”
The first tracks we wrote for the album were very dubby (as opposed to aggro) dubstep, influenced in equal parts by Seven Lions and Snoop Lion. Golden Stargate is an example. While some of my music inspiration comes from trying to create music that I want to hear that doesn’t yet exist, an equal part is listening to other artists and thinking “oh yeah, that!”
Quite of few of the album sounds came from riffing with Kontact‘s samples, especially various pianos. I’m a huge fan of Native Instruments; in addition to Kontact we use Massive, Battery 4, and even the discontinued Kore.
After writing a number of darker piano-based downtempo tracks like Good Morning Alcatraz we both felt the album needed some more energy, and maybe some lighter material. A sample from the video below became the basis of Google Bus. We wrote the just as silly track Make Yo Mama Dance directly afterwards.
Somewhere in the composition process we started to name tracks after various locations in San Francisco. I’ve been witnessing the radical transformation of SF from across the Bay with mixed feelings. The tech explosion is exciting and it’s fun to be close to a hub of energy, innovation, and disruption, but all the fast money also draws hordes of materialistic assholes to San Francisco and kicks out the artsy and working-class locals. We named the album “The Mission” as that neighborhood seems to be ground zero for cultural conflict, as is epitomized by the now famous “DropBox bros vs. locals soccer field video“.
The track names are as much a celebration of SF’s history as they are political commentary, but personally (I’m just speaking for myself here, not Mark) I think there are very specific things politicians in the Bay Area can do to mitigate some of the suffering caused by the “boomtime” economic transformation that is overtaking the Bay Area:
- protect lower-income renters from predatory practices on the part of property owners
- institute a Salt Lake City style homelessness reduction program (housing first, then treatment)
- create tax breaks and grants for working artists (like Creative Capital) to nourish the cultural side of the Bay Area (with funding from some of the big local tech companies)
Why a Contest?
I’ve been co-running an independent label for more than fifteen years, and I’ve yet to find the perfect formula for promoting music. Usually when a track or an album does well, it’s completely unexpected. On the other hand, if you don’t give the release that first little push, it might never find its first fans who give the track the big push it needs through word of mouth, playing it out, etc. The ideal promotional strategy is cost-effective: a large number of ears and minds are reached for every dollar spent.
The least cost-effective promotional strategies, in my own experience, are publicists and expensive music videos. Publicists are very expensive and usually result in a few music reviews (that might be good or might be bad, and even though all press is good press, bad reviews still suck). As for music videos, dropping thousands of dollars into producing a great-looking music video might pay off, or it might not. The music video for The Dive (directed by my incredibly talented wife Kia Simon) involved hand-painting hundreds of frames in Photoshop. It won awards at film festivals but only netted a few thousand views online. Same for Momu – Window and Momu – Rising. Even when a music video is produced on a tight budget does get enough views to significantly boost sales, it’s rare to break even. Of the two (publicist or music videos) the latter are more fun and create something of potentially lasting value, but music video production is not easy and not cheap.
So why a contest? Mostly because we hadn’t tried it before, and we figured that even if it wasn’t a great success we’d be able to give our promotional budget directly to a Momu fan! If the contest succeeds in generating a large number of pre-orders, the album will appear in Amazon’s Top Electronic and Dance Albums on release day, giving it a further boost. We could have gone with iTunes but I couldn’t figure out how to verify an iTunes purchase … Apple doesn’t immediately send you a receipt for a specific purchase.
Honestly we haven’t yet received that many entries. Maybe a contest is considered too gimmicky. I wouldn’t want anybody to purchase the album if they didn’t like the music, but those who enter have a very good chance of winning, at least as it stands now. We’ve committed and somebody is going to win $808! Here are the contest rules.
If any of the tracks connect with you, please spread the word. Nothing helps a release more than word of mouth. You will have Momu’s undying gratitude.
Comments and questions welcome, as always. Keep listening to the good stuff!
Extra credit: please tweet or share on Facebook if you enter the contest. Thanks!