'It's either incredibly foolish or a new way of doing things': Why Peace kept their new LP off DSPs

'It's either incredibly foolish or a new way of doing things': Why Peace kept their new LP off DSPs

Having spent the last few years working in isolation in the middle of Exmoor on the follow-up to 2018’s Kindness Is The New Rock And Roll, Worcester band Peace have self-released their fourth album, Utopia.

But there's a twist. 

While its lead single Happy Cars will be made available, and the record will be availble on vinyl, Peace are keeping their latest record off DSPs. For now, at least. Utopia is currently only available in a limited digital form via a passcode on https://peaceforeverever.co.uk/ to fans who buy t-shirts and gig tickets. 

Here, the group – which started life as a four-piece, before becoming streamlining its members to brothers Harry and Sam Koisser – speak to Music Week about their journey from major label-signed group to extreme indie, and why they just won’t cross the streams…

So, talk us through this: you've released your new album, but it's not going on DSPs?

Harry Koisser: “It's been out since April but on our private website. It started off as a merch thing, if you bought a t-shirt you got a code to access it – and now it’s a ticket thing. We had to talk the promoters into going for it. It will go to DSPs eventually, and we're in the midst of those discussions now. It wasn't an anti-streaming thing, it was more just a period of time where it's only going to the core fanbase.”

What have been the reactions of the streaming services to you effectively 'windowing' your own music? Has anyone said ‘you can't do that’?

HK: “Not really. I think people have sort of treated us like we're a fringe, mad evangelical branch of Christianity or something. People have been, 'Okay, if that's what you believe, do your thing.' The reaction from Spotify has been okay, I think they actually kind of understood, from what I gather. The message has never been to attack them. Everyone knows the issues that are associated with the ever-changing, accelerating timeframes now, and we're just trying to solve a few of them. When I meet people, fans seem to respond positively toward the thing, though our website is very difficult to use because your phone can't go to sleep or you have to use it on desktop."

Sam Koisser: “I built the website just by googling how to do it. No prior knowledge. I did consult a friend who does web design and he hacked it straight away…”

HK: “So it's really basic, but that's part of the fun with it. We made the passcode to the record quite simple because we wanted it to spread so we could see if, by the time we started doing shows, people have even bothered to listen? And when we did play some of those songs for the first time the audience reaction was much more energetic than what you traditionally get when you introduce new music. I met a kid while watching Bruce Springsteen in Hyde Park who told me he’d listened to the album a lot!”

What are the issues around streaming as you see them?  

HK: “One of the fundamental issues for us is that we can make really great music very slowly, or really bad music very quickly. To keep up with the acceleration of everything is sort of impossible for us. This album has taken us the best part of four years for us to make, so this approach felt like it was extending the period of time that we could use this music. Based on how it was with the last album we released, at this point in time we would be getting to the end of the cycle by now. Whereas now we're about to do our UK tour and we haven't got a song on streaming yet. If we do that bit afterwards then there's two parts to the cycle. A sort of inward-facing bit at the beginning where we've looked after our core fanbase, and then later on we can be more outward facing and look at potential new fans afterwards.”  

So this is all about extending the longevity of your campaign around an album, it’s not a protest about royalty rates?

HK: “If you're a musical artist you kind of either have to be extremely poor or extremely rich. There's nothing sexy about the middle ground. It’s either be punk and sleep in the van or I want to be a billionaire. So it wasn't really about the money, it was more about preserving some of the magic about the record that we spent so long doing. We’ve got some vinyl coming out next month and we’ve made sure that’s not chart-eligible because we felt like that’s a game we don’t need to play right now. It seems such a weird time for the charts. It's either incredibly foolish on our part or a new way of doing things.”

The record technically isn't out yet... We’ve been treating it as merch rather than audio so far

Harry Koisser, Peace

Is it working? What sort of numbers have you generated? 

HK: “We wanted to measure it, but the problem with our website is that once you’re put the code in that you got with a t-shirt or ticket we can’t see how many times the record has been played. We sold out a run of 300 t-shirts and we’re about to do a second run. That money allowed us to do a vinyl run, and when we sell those – our 300 pre-orders have all just gone – we’ll invest that into the light show or something. So we’re building it up in a truly self-sufficient way. So it’s all been a bit jank this time, but I think we could smooth it out and turn it into something quite slick.

SK: “We can do some estimations of how many listens because every now and then we get a report and are charged for the amount of data that has been used.”

HK: “It’s roughly costing us what Spotify would have paid us if we’d given it to them. It works out that we pay 0.003p per play. It's quite soothing because so much of music now is about metrics and statistics. It’s been nice not to worry about all that.”

To paraphrase Withnail & I, you’ve gone off the grid by accident!

HK: “Yeah, that’s exactly it. It’s in keeping with how we made the record. It was done in West Somerset in an old rectory and church. We were just there for years, chipping away at it. That’s what inspired us to do all this. We spent so long crafting the record, just the two of us, no producer, so that led us to make our own website and the whole thing evolved into this idea of a digital craft scene.”      

That said, your single Happy Cars will finally go on DSPs soon though, when will the album follow?

HK: ”The way that we described it is that the record technically isn't out yet, so that will be the proper release. We’ve been treating it as merch rather than audio so far. We will have to do a new mix for DSPs, and there’s already a few things I’d like to alter, so by the time it goes up more will have changed. Hopefully, it will be up there by next summer. Can we survive as musicians until then? We know festivals next year will be busy for us, we’ve got that coming, so we just need to make it through. It’s by a wafer-thin margin we’re able to do this, but it should all be fine.” 

Ok, finally what is the record actually like?

HK: “It sounds like what we were seeing from the rectory, we were in the middle of Exmoor with nothing around. It’s a bit medieval folk, but that’s that area though. If you spend enough time wandering around there, those sonics seep in. It’s so strange. It’s a weird record, I would have expected our audience to have rejected it but they really like it.”    

Words: Paul Stokes


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