“Fans are the ultimate judges of a band’s music, whether or not they vote for what goes on the record, whether they come to the shows, or whether they buy the record…"
Brisbane band Tin Can Radio, who have just returned home from a cushion-shaking session at Gertrude's Brown Couch, are at the forefront of modern social science. They're no professors, and yet they're conducting what could be seen as a radical social experiment – something they're calling Audio Democracy. They're allowing their fans, and any other randomly curious member of the great collective, to decide which tracks will appear on the band's new EP, to be released this September. Somewhere between crowdsourcing and plain crazy, the concept puts the taste of their fans at the forefront of their artistic process.
Bassist Jack Potter, self-described as “that lanky guy with the big red hair”, explains the reasoning behind giving fans the big shiny red button.
“Audio Democracy is a concept we came up with last year as a way of getting our fans more involved in the [music-making] process,” Potter begins. “I don't think of it as risky. I think of the inherent risk as exciting instead. It's fun not knowing what we will be recording. Having said that, we are getting pretty close now… voting will close at the end of July and the songs are definitely trending one way or the other.”
As a modern day observer knows, there's voting and there's voting. Many elections go through at least a tiny, weeny bit of rigging in the hope of an outcome the organisers prefer. Potter assures us that their voting process has not been corrupted in favour of their own favourite tracks.
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“We will not be overruling the votes,” he says, indignantly, when asked whether it was a straight shootin' ballot process. “We genuinely love all the songs on here, and I would be happy to record any of them. Sure, I have my favourites, and I voted for them – only once mind you – but I think to maintain the integrity of the band and project we have to record the fans' choice.”
Sounds like Potter is doing a fine job as scrutineer, then, at least if he really did only vote once. But why put this vote together at all? Aren't fans unreliable? You never know whether underneath your CD they have a stack of Michael Buble or Shania Twain albums. Why give them the power to choose?
“Fans are the ultimate judges of a band's music, whether or not they vote for what goes on the record, whether they come to the shows, or whether they buy the record… the choice is always with the fans,” Potter says, both optimistically and enthusiastically. “We have eight songs in total, and four will go on the EP, including It Goes On, which is going on there regardless.“
Will it be hard for fans to make a choice? Potter thinks there is diversity enough to make it easy.
“Most of our songs have similarities, but if you check out all of them there is certainly diversity in the sound: metal breakdown here, dubstep drop there, moody horn solos scattered on the floor like spaghetti after a big night out,” he describes evocatively. Although, it has me wondering who, in fact, drops spaghetti on the floor after a big one – enough to get a metaphor out of it I guess.
Tin Can Radio have been concocting the tracks for months, in readiness for this fateful elimination process, with the help of what every band must wish they had – an eccentric and artistic uncle with a country house.
“We started off writing this album during our last national tour. We took some time out at my uncle's place in southern Victoria. He is an eccentric artist with a house-cum-studio full of weird and wonderful things. The space and time gave birth to These Days and Dream For Now. The last song we wrote, Kaleidoscopes, is definitely my favourite. It's so catchy. I find myself singing it in the shower most days.”