On Wednesday 26 October I was honoured to accept the award for the “Best Instrumental” category in the 2016 Australian Independent Music Awards!
The MusicOz AIMAs are one of the last remaining opportunities for recognition of independent musicians in this country. And a huge shot in the arm for me – my style of music is independent at best. What this means my friends is that prog rock can still be a thing!
And of course, worldwide, there’s good old Bandcamp, selling both digital and physical. If you purchase the CD/DVD from here, you get an immediate digital download to tide you over until the postman arrives!
This is an idea I’ve been thinking about for a while.
It takes me quite a while to record an album, and for a lot of that time I’m sitting on almost-finished songs that I’m excited about but nobody else gets to hear. It might be much more interesting if I released them as I recorded them. They might not be finished yet, but as long as everyone understands that, I can happily go about the rest of the recording, secure in the knowledge that everything will become clear once the album comes out!
Like other independent artists I’m also very interested in fan-funded models. But I’m uncomfortable with the idea of asking for funds up-front, and then disappearing for a year or so until an album is finished. I’d much rather people get something for their money immediately (and often), with smaller outlays.
And finally, I read a lot of press about how the album is dying. This upsets me. Albums are a big part of my musical life and I don’t want to abandon the album format in favour of singles only.
So this is why I’m launching TuneLeak, a new music platform just for albums.
As I continue to record my new album, I’ll officially “leak” early versions of each track and make them available for purchase as digital downloads. When the album is finally released, you’ll receive a discount equal to the total amount you spent on the leaked tracks. So, if you download, say, five “TuneLeaks” at $1 per track, you’ll receive a $5 discount on the album. You don’t pay twice for the same song!
I’m excited about the idea and I’m putting my next album up there as the pilot project. If it works out, I hope to get other artists involved down the track.
I’d like to introduce you to TuneLeak! Here’s the full press release. But first, the logo by Freyja Dean!
For Immediate Release
Australian Prog Artist Ben Craven To Release New Single Through Innovative Music Delivery System ‘TuneLeak’
“Seriously well-distilled and blended” – Van Dyke Parks
Brisbane, Australia – Much to the excitement of prog music aficionados across the planet, Australian cinematic progressive-rock singer-songwriter Ben Craven is releasing his new single through an innovative new music delivery system he’s developed called ‘TuneLeak’. Ben Craven’s new single titled “Critical Mass Part 2” is now available through TuneLeak at http://www.tuneleak.com.
Ben explains, “This project is being driven by music industry commentators saying the album is dead. I agree it’s an endangered species, at least commercially. As a musician and a listener, I’m very attached to the concept of albums as coherent collections of songs and all the emotional ties we make with them. So for this album I’m trying a different business model – which I’m calling ‘TuneLeak’ – where I can engage the audience at every step of the recording process, officially ‘leak’ songs well before they’re finished, and hopefully even get paid!”
The new single is part of Craven’s highly anticipated forthcoming third album tentatively titled ‘Last Chance To Hear’. Says Ben, “’Critical Mass Part 2′ is the first song I’ve recorded for the album, and the first track I’m putting out there on the TuneLeak website. It’s a short, sharp instrumental, and sounds like outer-space spy music. There is of course a ‘Part 1’ and I’ll be leaking that track very soon as well!”
Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, immersed as a toddler in the era of big prog rock, Craven taught himself guitar and keyboards and joined a series of bands. None of them remotely played the kind of music that had been burned into his mainframe as a kid. Nonetheless, the songs he wrote accumulated steadily. In 2005, Craven dispensed entirely with the band approach and recorded his debut album, ‘Two False Idols’ under the name of Tunisia. The result was a work of incredible maturity, with influences ranging from Pink Floyd and Brian Wilson to the likes of Bernard Herrmann and John Barry.
Says Ben, “My usual suspect influences are Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Yes and King Crimson. But just as important are composers like Bernard Herrmann, John Barry, Henry Mancini and John Williams. I seem to blend progressive music with film soundtrack elements. I’m also a Brian Wilson tragic.”
As Craven worked his first album it became painfully obvious that the music business was in the midst of a sea change, and most of the old guard didn’t seem to realise they were the cause. Very quickly he took an anti-DRM stance and released the live acoustic EP ‘Under Deconstruction’ as a high-quality free download.
Craven stepped up a gear for his sophomore album, ‘Great & Terrible Potions’. Delivering on the cinematic promise of ‘Two False Idols’, ‘Potions’ went widescreen (literally) as Craven blurred the boundaries between conventional songs and orchestral soundtracks. Augmented by a stunning cover designed by legendary artist Roger Dean (Yes, Uriah Heep, Asia), ‘Potions’ was dense, complicated and unashamedly pretentious – everything a good prog rock album should be! Or, to put it another way, Craven sounded exactly like someone revelling in the creative freedom that could come only from not worrying about what others wanted, and delivering what he felt instead.
And now Ben is working on his latest masterpiece! He explains, “In keeping with the idea of the album as an endangered species, the working title is ‘Last Chance To Hear’. It’s shaping up to be another solo album in the true sense of the word where I play just about everything, like on my previous album ‘Great & Terrible Potions’. The difference this time is a much greater portion will likely be instrumental. Not that I dislike vocals, but sometimes the music can be strong and emotional and moving enough to stand on its own without them.”
Here’s what the press raved about Ben Craven’s previous release:
“Heavy-duty prog rock monster” – Anil Prasad, Innerviews
“Cracking virtuoso performance by an absurdly talented individual” – Classic Rock Society
“Craven’s one-man-band production is a prog opus for the 21st century” – Musoscribe
“All the drama, thunder, strum and drang you could want the spiritual grand child of Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson to bring” – Midwest Record
“Craven’s tremendous ability to combine memorable hooks with complex progressive rock and cinematic orchestral music is astounding” – Sea Of Tranquility
“Press play and this album does the rest” – Muzikreviews
In closing Ben has this to impart to his fans and listeners, “The music business is becoming an increasingly cynical place. The landscape is dominated by reissues, remixes and repacking of old material in what feels like a ‘last hurrah’. But there are still true believers out there flying under the radar and producing music primarily out of love and obsession. Not because of contractual obligations, deadlines or other market forces. I’d still be making music if the industry was truly dead and buried. But I’d much rather people listened to it!”
TuneLeak is a different approach for releasing music. It’s like getting to know someone gradually over a meaningful period of time, rather than telling them you love them on the first date. Most importantly, it’s about albums. That is, TuneLeak features albums as they’re being recorded.
As each individual song is worked on, the artist will “leak” an early version. It might just be a rough demo. Or it could be almost complete. It will probably sound different when the album is finished. But it will be out there for all to hear.
These leaked tracks (“TuneLeaks”!) will be available for purchase as digital downloads. When the album is finally released, TuneLeak customers will receive a discount equal to the total amount they spent on purchasing the leaked tracks from that album. So, if you download, say, five “TuneLeaks” from a particular artist at $1 per track, you’ll receive a $5 discount on the album. You won’t pay twice for the same song.
It’s not quite crowdfunding. It’s not quite pre-ordering. It’s artists and audiences coming together on the creative journey of making an album.
Ben Craven & The Section has announced the departure of founding vocalist/guitarist Ben Craven.
The remaining band members will retain the rights to the name through the formation of new legal entity, Ben Craven & The Section Music 2014 Limited.
“We wish Ben all the best in his future musical endeavours and hope to put all this acrimony behind us,” says the band. “Naturally we will miss his artistic input but we are confident the addition of a new vocalist and new guitarist will make the three-piece stronger than ever.”
In a move that has surprised Australian music industry insiders, the replacement musicians will be auditioned and ultimately selected on a new reality television show entitled Ben Craven & The Section & You?
“We are excited to be help uncover young new musical talent and give something back to the industry that has served us so well,” enthused band members.
Ben Craven & The Section & You? will screen on C31 on Sunday evenings commencing 4 May. The show will be produced by Desert Comb Music and Ben Craven.
After completing my last album, Great & Terrible Potions, I began thinking about how I could possibly perform it live.
Upon returning from the hills, still screaming, I fell in with a three-piece band instead. Throwing the original song arrangements out the window, we rehearsed over a period of months, generally late at nights so as to avoid all natural light. Practising the subtle arts of refining and distilling, we pieced together new versions of old and not-so-old songs.
Unfortunately we found ourselves forgetting some of the new arrangements, so we decided to spend a day recording in the studio. The audio release, Dissected, is what happened that day.
Luckily the cameras just happened to be rolling. The resulting film, which is also called Dissected, captures our performances and documents the shenanigans and tomfoolery in which we engaged.
Several takes of each song were recorded and filmed throughout the day. The eagle-eyed amongst you might think you spot the odd “continuity error” during the film. These would, of course, be nothing of the sort whatsoever. In fact, they would be much more correctly interpreted as exciting opportunities for artistic editing decisions by the director.
Dissected is now available for download and preview
Been a while since my last email, so I hope you’re doing well.
Just wanted to let you know that Ben Craven & The Section (that’s us), in proud association with Kevin Mulryne at Yes Music Podcast, will be holding a live video podcast this coming Saturday, 11 May, at 14:00 UTC.
I believe that’s 3pm in London, 10am on the US east coast, 7am on the US west coast (sorry about that – we’ll set a better time next time!) and midnight here in Brisbane, Australia. Please let me know if I’ve made any mistakes there..
We’ll have a chat with Kevin, perform a few songs live in the studio, and aim not to resort to all sorts of increasingly desperate measures to be entertaining.
If this works out, I plan to do more like it. If it doesn’t, I plan to get it right and do more anyway. It’s difficult to tour the world and get the message out, so I think this might be a good way forward.
The broadcast will be accessible via a YouTube link, posted to my website, Facebook and Twitter accounts right before we start. We’ll see how it goes!