This is a post about the Pixies.
It’s August 1990 and my life is about to change. I’d like to say that someone had passed me a copy of the seminal album, Doolittle, with its dark, jagged lyrics, but they hadn’t. The album I had heard was the smoother and less predatory Bossanova, and from that day on my musical taste changed irrevocably. A large part of my existing music collection never got played again.
I’m sure we all have an epiphany of a similar nature at some time in our lives, I’m glad mine was musical. That was over 20 years ago, but here I am still listening to the Pixies.
Why are you telling me this?
I’m sure that’s the question you’re asking. Twenty years is a long time, especially in technology. The internet – as we know it – didn’t even exist in 1990. So you might think that a group like the Pixies are no longer relevant.
But it’s not the case, and I, for one, am glad.
The Pixies, or just Pixies (no The) to be exact, have embraced digital media as part of their touring comeback. They’ve grasped the essential nature of the social web to create an online community that is both forward-looking (new fans) and reminiscing happily (old fans like me), successfully spanning the generation gap.
They’ve done this by:
1. Creating a multi-platform web presence
Each platform has its own strength and weaknesses. The Pixies are harnessing this by creating a central hub (pixiesmusic.com) surrounded by a mobile app (iPhone and Android), a Facebook page and a Twitter account. The Twitter account is mainly push messaging, the Facebook page is for discussion, the mobile app pulls the web presence onto mobile devices (including streaming capabilities), and the main site contains all this plus e-commerce functionality. They’re not the greatest designed sites in the world, but they work.
2. Creating a core content pot
The main site is built around one idea, to create a single source of Pixies information online, from the basic discography to an ever-growing gigography – a complete list of all the gigs the band has played. Fans are encouraged to provide their thoughts, memories, pictures and even recordings of these gigs. The same content structure is used in the mobile applications.
3. Giving something for nothing
If you want people to give something to you, you have to give something to them. For signing up to the site you get a free live EP in digital format and access to stream old live concerts and demo’s. It’s an immediate value-add for the consumer. By showcasing their live sound (which is excellent), fans are also encouraged to see the band play live (tour dates and tickets available on the site) or to buy recordings of other shows, spanning from the early ’90s to the present.
4. Keeping content fresh
The web is a bottomless pit of content it seems. By mining its depths, the Pixies are regularly sharing old interviews, live performances and TV appearances. These are mostly from YouTube, but sometimes highlight content from fan-sites. Just a few days ago, I came cross a site that was streaming a recording of an interview with the Pixies on John Peel’s radio show. It had been taken from a tape recording and cleaned up. I have a tape of the very same interview in my loft, and was compelled to comment that it was the case. These constant reminders of the past make great fodder for discussion amongst the faithful and Facebook posts regularly get a lot of comments.
It’s great to see this kind of renaissance. They’ve approached it just the right way, and are reaping the rewards.
For the interested among you…
The music of the Pixies is fantastic, but don’t take my word for it, take a listen:
Bossanova – where it all started for me – listen to Bossanova
Come on Pilgrim – the debut 8 track mini-album from March 1987 – listen to Come On Pilgrim
Surfer Rosa – the first studio album from 1988, a short, but not so sweet, chicano-influenced mix produced by Steve Albini – listen to Surfer Rosa
Doolittle – the iconic Pixies album – listen to Doolittle
Trompe Le Monde – the last studio album, a sci-fi inspired piece of alt-rock that’s so good that it’s over before it’s started – listen to Trompe Le Monde
Or for a single album overview there’s always Death to the Pixies, a collection of album tracks – listen to Death to the Pixies