Sloan were in a unique position to watch the effect the internet age had on the music industry.
They had a front row seat as the band solidified after a break-up with their third album, One Chord to Another, in 1996.
Patrick Pentland, one of four members who are all songwriters, often switching instruments during a show, called the transition “the complete, utter decline of the music business.”
Sloan is currently touring to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their third album, One Chord to Another, a turning point for Sloan, coming to the Mule Nightclub April 19.
“One Chord to Another was our biggest selling record, at the time, and it happened very quickly. You were able to put a record out and within a week or a month you were able to sell 30,000 copies,” Pentland said. “Now, 30,000 copies is phenomenal for a band to sell in Canada, and it wasn’t even that great for us back then.”
It was around the release of Sloan’s fifth album, Between the Bridges, that music piracy and peer-to-peer networking programs like Limewire and Napster starting cutting into music sales, though that wasn’t the entirety of the problem, Pentland said.
“A lot of that wasn’t just people downloading, it was the music industry not really responding properly or responding too late to it. You can’t necessarily blame them because who knew what was going to happen, but the way that you promote and market bands and records now, the records aren’t even a big deal,” Pentland said.
The release of an album is only a part of promoting a band now, Pentland said.
“Whereas back then it was very much album-centric, the record was king, you put all your effort into making this record. Then you would tour to promote the record, now it’s just another component to what you do.”
Sloan continues to release albums, as most bands do, but Pentland said the model is shifting to releasing singles, or two or three songs here and there. Mostly due to the fact promoting and marketing have shifted to social media, which can put some distribution and marketing power back in the hands of the bands.
During his phone interview with the Western News, Pentland said he had spent the morning on social media interacting with fans, fielding questions. He’s not only adapted, but embraced the new normal in music.
“With One Chord to Another, you’d get a hand full of mail, actual mail, fan mail, that would ask you a question and you might answer it, you might send it off two months later and they’d get an answer. Now you can tweet to me when I’m on Twitter, which I often am, and I’ll answer your question right away,” Pentland said.
“For me to be able to write to a musician I was really into in 1996 and get an answer right away would be insane,” Pentland said. “I like it better. Back in ’96 I didn’t want people to have any access to me and now I feel like I don’t mind, it’s nice to be able to be in contact with people.”
It was a solidifying release for the band after a late 1990s break-up. All four original members still play together today.
“It was a big record for us,” Pentland said. “We did a record called Commonwealth a few years ago, we didn’t feel the need to do another new record right away, but we wanted to do something and we realize that this was the next record we wanted to revisit.”
“To me it’s the first sort of real Sloan record, whereas the first two were quite different from each other and we sort of split up a little bit after Twice Removed,” Pentland said. “When we got back together I think we were a bit of a different band and this is, in my mind, the beginning of what people now know as Sloan.”
Sloan comes to the Mule Nightclub April 19. Tickets are $25 available at the Mule or online at www.ticketweb.ca.Doors open at 8 p.m.