In Conversation With Sloan

Canadian rock band Sloan is taking a new approach to the medium of digital and online music sales. This past Monday, the group launched their very own online store via their website at www.sloanmusic.com, where fans can pick up Hit and Run, their brand new five-song digital-only EP, while also being able to purchase gems from the group’s back catalogue, many of which are available for the first time in the digital medium.

Rather than push against what technology can offer the band in terms of getting product in the hands of their fans, Sloan guitarist Jay Ferguson says the group is embracing the fact that the days of two year waits to release new material is no longer a necessity.

“We really like the idea of creating something and not having to wait to get it manufactured and then get product to stores as bands have done in the past. I like the immediacy associated to the digital realm,” Ferguson tells me from his Toronto home. “For instance, Take It Upon Yourself (one of the tracks on the group’s new EP), was finished being mixed one day and was online the next day. The quick turn-around potential is really appealing to us.”

To help fete the online debut of the group’s older material, the band has created new PDF booklets to accompany the digital release of their full-length studio records Smeared, Twice Removed, One Chord To Another, Navy Blues and Between The Bridges. According to Ferguson, the booklets for these releases will contain lyrics and a smattering of bonus tracks with each record to entice buyers to reinvest in the group’s albums. For the time being, Ferguson believes that bonus tracks will be exclusive to the Sloan online store and tied to the purchase of the albums on which they are located rather than being available for individual purchase.

When asked about the reason for the delay in the availability of the group’s first five albums via iTunes and other music e-tailers, Ferguson states the band maintained ownership of the digital rights to their first five records and rather than rush them to market, they wanted to wait until a time they felt it would be appropriate to release them.

“Even though Universal Music retained the rights to release those albums, we hadn’t signed over the digital rights for them to release. Rather than hand the rights to this product over to someone else, we wanted to wait for the appropriate time to release them for ourselves.”

Much like me, Ferguson is an avid music collector. I wanted to see how he feels about the migration from the days of holding a slab of tangible vinyl to the current trends of taking in artwork, lyrics and album credits on your computer screen.

“It is definitely nice to hold something tangible but the convenience of buying digitally is great too. These days, I’m buying more vinyl than CD’s and am a big fan of those bands that include a download code with your purchase so that you can more or less download the record for free on your computer. I really like that mode and think we might explore that in the future.”

The immediate future for Sloan involves some American shows as well as a quick run through Western Canada leading up to the Christmas holidays. Ferguson doesn’t anticipate Sloan returning to their former East Coast base prior to spring but also admits that anything could be possible.

The good news for Sloan fans on the east and west coast however is that Ferguson doesn’t rule out the band releasing another EP of new songs in the New Year. He hypothesizes that both EP’s might then be combined onto one physical piece of product which could then go in traditional music stores.

“The mode for us these days is catering to our devoted fans and zeroing in on that,” he says. “Our new online store is really going to revolve around the fans and what they might like to see. We have so many demos and extra songs left over from sessions that maybe we will reissue one of our older records with a book and make it a really nice package and offer that for sale.

“And for something like that, I’m not quite sure if it would be worthwhile to release to stores but just to have the option to do what we want is great.”

Check out Sloan’s new online store at www.sloanmusic.com and while you’re at it, pick up their new five song EP.

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