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Hot Mondy Are Pushing Back Against The Economy Of Playlisting

The Halifax roots rockers on why they’ve never been fans of digital streaming services and what they plan to do about it.

by Stephan Boissonneault 

Photo by Julian Marentette

Hot Mondy have always made an effort to adapt with the times. Yet one band’s definition of adaptation can be different from another, and in the case of the Halifax-based folk rock/country blues band, it’s certainly different from the norm. 

Their new album, Best Laid Plans — featuring guest vocalists Jah’Mila, Kwento, Christina Martin, and Buck Elliot — will not be available on digital streaming platforms like Spotify. You’ll only be able to find it in the form of physical vinyl copies via Bandcamp. You could call it a form of protest for the ridiculously low royalties artists receive from the streaming giants. But before you roll your eyes and think ‘This is the opposite of adapting,’ Matt Brannon, one of Hot Mondy’s core songwriters, disagrees. 

“I’ve never been a big fan of streaming services…”

“I’ve never been a big fan of streaming services and the way they came into existence. Their relationship with artists has been really bad for anyone who’s making music. It’s a false economy,” he says. “I think it’s always been a race to the bottom. People have told me our decision is risky, but I definitely see the opposite.”

Spotify’s business model earns an artist about $0.003 – $0.005 for every stream. This means that for every million streams, an artist makes about $4,000, which is peanuts in the grand scheme of things. Bandcamp, on the other hand, pays 82 per cent of profits to the artist, and on one Friday of every month for Bandcamp Fridays, they pay the full 100 per cent.

In Brannon’s eyes, streaming platforms like Spotify work in one of two scenarios. The first is to promote a brand—but only for someone already selling out stadiums, like Taylor Swift, who can reach millions more than her sold out world tour. “And then I see it as a democratization of music, which is a really low barrier of entry,” he says. “Anyone can put their music up on Spotify, but I think like 98 per cent of it never gets a spin. So what’s the point? You can’t make a case for that just because everyone is on streaming.”

Then there is this new economy of playlisting, run by “faceless arbiters” who decide what gets heard and what doesn’t. Like a radio DJ drunk with power working based on nepotism—or randomness.

Brannon hopes Hot Mondy fans see it their way, but also take pleasure in going to the record store and finding their vinyl in a bin, maybe years from now. And with the trend of vinyl growing, he could be onto something.

“If our band can be around for 10 more years, we make three more albums, and I don’t worry about how many people are gonna listen to it next week, but I look at that over a long period of time and the fan base and building up those relationships … Well, over that period of time, everybody will understand how we deliver our music,” he says.

The music Hot Mondy’s making, while still sounding modern, does harken back to the early heydays of rock vinyl when streaming services never existed. It was a time when if you really wanted to  discover a band, you had to play their record and dive through some liner notes. In that spirit, Hot Mondy is throwing in something more for their fans—a comic, nearly 50 pages, that is based off of the lyrical narratives found in Best Laid Plans. The comic will be an anthology of 11 parts that slides perfectly into the sleeve of a double seven-inch record. Bandcamp purchases will also come with a free download as well.

“The idea was to give every song a visual representation. I’m a huge vinyl collector and I don’t know of any band that has done this with the purchase of their album,” Brannon says. “We spoke a lot about adapting. Well, this is the way we are adapting and finding a new way to interact with our fans.”