TMBG adapts to survive in era of downloaded tunes
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How does a band hold on to the tail end of the 8-track, survive the influx and eventual collapse of the compact disc, embrace iPod-packing MP3s and still enjoy massive musical success? Running strong for 25 years and having just released their twelfth studio album, The Else, Brooklyn band They Might Be Giants believes the answer lies in adaptability.
“We’re all living in the same world. We don’t have a choice but to be flexible,” insists John Flansburgh, half of the duo rounded out by long-time friend John Linnell. Flansburgh speaks of the band’s proactive approach to the changing technological times, a contrast to more restrictive measures taken by record labels.
Although he admits it is difficult to know what the “right” thing to do is in the ethical debate regarding online music downloading and album leaking, Flansburgh contends that by forecasting such trends, they can be facilitated rather than inhibited.
“We anticipated (online music leaking) happening and that’s exactly what did happen so we made a point of having the album available for download a couple of months in advance of the proper release.”
Keeping with flexibility in response to technology, TMBG also remains versatile when it comes to the theme and format of the music they write.
Beginning as independent artists, Flansburgh and Linnell have gone from writing alternative rock music to penning children’s albums and television themes for The Daily Show and Dunkin Donuts commercials.
But the divide between making more personal music and that for corporate pursuits like the children’s label and television programs of Disney, says Flansburgh, is a matter of control.
“There’s no question of who’s leading the project creatively. The reason we got on Disney is because we’d sold a couple hundred thousand kids’ records before, and the reason we got signed to Elektra was because we’d sold a couple hundred thousand records before on indie labels.”
Flansburgh believes TMBG has made their own good luck in these situations; a truth he says is owed to keeping focus. “Making music isn’t a vehicle for getting fame for us.
“Creating music is the end product. That’s good enough.”
And above their level and length of success, Flansburgh urges that They Might Be Giants is no more relevant now than they ever were. “We’re just a very singular unusual band with a very curious point of view that does their own thing.”