This semester, Branden Sanders, an Enterprise Fellow at Vanderbilt University, has been working towards adding Reed to his music website Mellodi.com. The design of the site is similar to iTunes, but instead of finding Bruno Mars or Ke$ha in the Top Songs one will come across some of the most promising college artists in the country—or at least those who have decided to upload their tracks.
Over a dozen students from Tufts, Skidmore, and Wesleyan have seized upon Mellodi as a good venue for presenting their music and expanding their audiences. Joining Mellodi makes their work accessible through a curated page that shows their songs alongside those of other artists from their school. Sanders optimistically wrote in an email at the beginning of the semester: “Once we get about 12 artists we’ll give Reed its own school page and people will be able to browse and listen to all the music made by Reed students.” To date, only five Reed artists have signed up while others have refused or failed to respond to Sanders’ requests.
Sanders started a recording studio when he was studying at Vanderbilt, but noticed that after most of the student artists had finished recording they struggled to garner attention. “They would post and tweet all day long but it was to the same 200 people over and over again,” says Sanders. “However, we discovered that when we framed the music in context of the school people were significantly more likely to give the music a chance and enjoy it. Thus, Mellodi.”
One of the Reedies who has signed up on Mellodi is Garrett Linck, who released his debut EP, ‘Abodes of Owls’ (reviewed in The Grail), on Bandcamp this February. “I decided to upload my music to Mellodi because it’s just another way to access a different audience,” says Linck. “Wherever you put your music online, there is no guarantee that anyone will see it, but you can target a demographic depending on where you upload it.”
Linck’s words are similar to Sanders’ statement that “all we [at Mellodi] are trying to do is get more people to listen to the great stuff that is currently getting lost in the depths of Soundcloud and YouTube.”
Linck believes Bandcamp to be the most effective way to self-release music today. Of Mellodi’s approach to presenting artists’ work with that of other artists from their school, however, he says, “it provides a sense of geographic community that isn’t quite present with other sites.” For Linck, the site is interesting because that sense of community allows you to see similarities between artists at a given college. “I didn’t know about many of the other Reed bands on the site, so it was really cool to listen to them,” he says.
“When we were first planning Mellodi,” says Sanders, “I often would say ‘imagine how cool it would be to hear the sound of Vanderbilt compared to the sound of somewhere like Reed.’” Unfortunately for Sanders, Reedies have separated themselves from other schools by being less responsive to emails and more reluctant to put their music online.
“As someone that has now interacted with many different students at many different schools, Reed is hands-down the most unique,” says Sanders. “Out of the responses I’ve actually received [ from Reedies], I’ve heard everything from ‘I will never put my music on the Internet’ to ‘I will put my music on the Internet but I will never tell anyone where it is.’”
Jon Pape is among the Reed students that have elected not to sign up for the site, citing concerns about an advertising-centered focus of web negatively affecting artists’ potential for creative development. “I view the internet as a great tool for archiving that has been manipulated by corporations into an advertising-focused domain,” says Pape. “Consequently, new bands put up their music before they have developed their own style, and become less outgoing and creative in general.”
“I just didn’t think I was done crafting my sound and my songwriting style enough to merit promotion in general, let alone in terms of popularity driven sites,” says Pape. “This accessibility can shape your sound for you, through the temptation to cater towards others. Its pretty natural to want to be accepted to some degree and to see your hard work appreciated.”
He states that if he were contacted by a friend who ran a music blog he liked, who wanted to post some of his music, he would likely send him his music. He is not interested, however, in having his music all over the web, as content meant to keep users engaged for long enough to get to the real content—whatever the site is advertising. “When I first went to The Mellodi,” continues Pape, “a big ass sign came up that said ‘LIKE US ON FACEBOOK’ and caught my eye before…”Home of College Music”-- a dead giveaway that this site’s priorities were more geared towards advertising and popularity than art, community, and creativity in general. I gave [Branden Sanders] basically the same low-down, and he told me I had a good point and that a lot of people he deals with are way more concerned about social capital than art, or an artistic community.”
Sanders doesn’t believe there’s any risk in being involved with the Mellodi, while there is the potential upside of broadening your audience through the site. He continues to want Reed to be part of Mellodi, saying, “To me it’s the closest thing to a ‘rockstar’ college brand, yet many of it’s students seem hesitant to attach themselves.” Still, he’s understanding of those who aren’t interested in putting their music on the site. “The artists that responded to my emails and turned me down were lovely and interesting to talk to,” he says. “It’s the ones that didn’t respond at all, of which there were too many, they are a mystery to me.”
Garrett Linck hasn’t seen a noticeable difference in the popularity of his music since putting his music on the site, something Sanders attributes to Reed not having its own page. Linck remains happy with his decision to put his music on the site and encourages other Reedies to get involved and create more visible community on the site. “If I’ve reached anyone who found my music on Mellodi and then downloaded my EP from Bandcamp, it will have been worth signing up.”