LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen. If you were a musician 10 years ago, there was basically only one way to make it big. You had to get on the radio. The Internet has changed that.
(Soundbite of music)
HANSEN: Musicians now can build an audience by sending out their music over various networks. But the online world is crowded. So just putting it out there isn't enough. For our series on Music and Technology, NPR's Laura Sydell looks at how one artist called City and Colour and his record label have been promoting his music one blog and one MP3 file at a time.
LAURA SYDELL: Lauren Bates is a fan.
Ms. LAUREN BATES: Pretty much everybody who knows me knows my taste in music and knows that City and Colour is probably number one at my list.
SYDELL: It was love at first listen for Bates when she got a few MP3 attachments with an email.
Ms. BATES: One of my friends actually sent me like a few things and was like, you should listen to this. I think you'd really like it and so, sent me a bunch of stuff, two or three songs. I was like, wow.
(Soundbite of "The Girl")
CITY AND COLOUR: (Singing) I wish I could do better by you 'Cause that's what you deserve...
SYDELL: City and Colour is actually made up of one man, a Canadian by the name of Dallas Green. Here's the thing about those MP3 files. He never officially released those songs.
Mr. DALLAS GREEN (City and Colour): Well, I didn't even put it out on the Internet. It was just people who had gotten copies of the demos that I had sold when I was a teenager.
SYDELL: In fact, Green is still best known for a very different kind of music. He is the guitarist and a singer with the punk band Alexisonfire.
(Soundbite of punk music)
SYDELL: The band is very popular in his native Canada, where one of its albums went platinum. But as Alexisonfire got big, its fans wanted to know more about them.
Mr. GREEN: Kids started sort of searching the Internet for things about the members of the band, and one person found out I had this song and told another person or e-mailed it to that person. And then slowly but surely, kids started asking me when I was going to put a solo record out.
SYDELL: In 2005, Green released his first solo album in Canada as City and Colour. Last February, he released "Bring Me Your Love" in the United States. His record label knew they wasn't going to get radio play. Jeremy Maciak, head of marketing at Vagrant Records, says they aggressively promoted City and Colour online.
Mr. JEREMY MACIAK (Head of Marketing, Vagrant Records): Any sort of blog, you know, with even 100 readers or even less was worth our time.
SYDELL: They give blogs access to interviews with Green, free music files.
Mr. MACIAK: As media is more and more fractionalized, you can't afford to not be any place.
SYDELL: Still, even on the Internet, it's better to be some places than others, and MySpace has become the place where fans go to find new music. Maciak pushed to get a Transmissions Session on MySpace. These are live studio performances broadcast over the website. Green stood alone in front of a microphone strumming his guitar and singing.
(Soundbite of song "Body In A Box")
CITY AND COLOUR: (Singing) There's a funeral procession on the highway. Traffic screeches to a halt. There's people searching for a better way.
SYDELL: Vagrant Records encourages Dallas Green to interact with his fans through email and live chats. It all takes a lot of time. The 28-year-old musician started singing before there was a popular Internet. Green says he never imagined he would have to spend so much time doing promotion as opposed to making music.
Mr. GREEN: I thought, like, you know, all I had to do was get on the radio. You know, I never thought that I would have to go and basically re-record my record four times so people would be interested in it still. And I never thought that I would have to keep up-to-date on the photo section on my MySpace page or reply to comments from people asking me what kind of strings I use.
SYDELL: But this constant promotion and attention to fans is the new business model for music. Vagrant record's Jeremy Maciak says success is no longer judged by the first week's sales.
Mr. MACIAK: It's about a slow build and having that intricate and honest conversation with our fans and potential audience, and sometimes, that takes months, years to build.
SYDELL: The MySpace concert took place a good two months after the release of City and Colour's album, and it gave CD sales a big boost. For fans, there is an upside to the new model. Today's musicians must do more live performances. Record companies can no longer hide mediocre artists with lots of in-studio special effects.
Mr. ERIC GARLAND (CEO, Big Champagne): If you're trying to earn a living making music, more than ever, you really have to be talented.
SYDELL: Eric Garland tracks music use on the Internet for his company, Big Champagne. Garland says Dallas's MySpace performance might get sent around the Internet even more than the tracks from his album.
Mr. GARLAND: There's every possibility that the album that I consider Dallas's album is not the one that he considers his album. It's just some performance or some recording that made its way into my hand.
SYDELL: 23-year-old City and Colour fan Lauren Bates did buy Dallas Green's album because she wanted to support a musician she loves. But, she says, her favorite song is still one of those tracks she got in an e-mail. It's called "Casey's Song."
Ms. BATES: It's really short and to the point, and the music is beautiful.
(Soundbite of song "Casey's Song")
CITY AND COLOUR: (Singing) With you on my mind, and my heart held in your hands.
SYDELL: Bates isn't certain what "Casey's Song" is about, but if she really wanted to know, she could always e-mail Dallas Green and ask him. And there's a good chance he would answer her. Laura Sydell, NPR News.