To Generate Buzz, Clap Your Hands on the 'Net! Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! is but one of scores of bands making music without the help a record label, pressing CDs themselves and selling them at concerts and on the Internet.
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To Generate Buzz, Clap Your Hands on the 'Net!

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To Generate Buzz, Clap Your Hands on the 'Net!

To Generate Buzz, Clap Your Hands on the 'Net!

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Now proof of the power of the Internet in the music industry, specifically the way MP3s, blogs, Web-based music magazines and online record stores can offer small-time bands a way to reach an audience. Over two weeks this June, all of these forces mobilized in support of a rock band called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. NPR's Jacob Ganz has the story.

JACOB GANZ reporting:

Dan Beirne writes for the MP3 blog He trolls the Internet with an ear out for independent bands. Sometime during the first week in June, he stumbled across the name Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on a file-sharing Web site.

Mr. DAN BEIRNE ( Their name, it both attracted me and repulsed me at the same time, and so I just had to find out what it was.

(Soundbite of music)

GANZ: What he heard was a track from the band's self-titled debut.

(Soundbite of song)

CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible) baby said to me. Love--yes, it is a ...(unintelligible) the same old ...(unintelligible).

GANZ: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is but one of scores of bands making music without the help of a record label, pressing CDs themselves and selling them at concerts and on the Internet. Musicians like this are lucky if they draw the attention of an MP3 blogger like Dan Beirne.

Mr. BEIRNE: No one had even been talking about it, you know. The most I could find on the Internet was, `Oh, my friend's band is doing really well,' this kind of thing. When it's that fresh, you have no biases, and I just listened to it non-stop and then posted it in the next couple of days.

GANZ: Beirne's post hit the Web on June 9th, the very same day the band played a record-release party in New York City. Soon after, blogs including and BrooklynVegan started making noise about the band. Then music Web site took notice. Pitchfork editor in chief Ryan Schreiber says the buzz was just loud enough to lead him to the band's Web site,

Mr. RYAN SCHREIBER (Editor in Chief, And so we downloaded the MP3s and listened to them and listened to them a couple of times and were really, really impressed.

GANZ: Pitchfork is a dominant force in the indie rock world. The site is widely credited with launching last year's indie faves The Arcade Fire and killing the solo debut of Travis Morrison. Josh Rosenfeld is the president of Barsuk Records, the label that put out the Morrison disk. Nonetheless, Rosenfeld respects the influence Pitchfork can have on an unknown band like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

Mr. JOSH ROSENFELD (President, Barsuk Records): The reason that people started to buy their record, without ever having heard the band or really having heard of the band, was Pitchfork.

(Soundbite of music)

GANZ: On June 14th, just five days after Dan Beirne's initial post, Pitchfork's Ryan Schreiber reviewed a single Clap Your Hands track.

(Soundbite of song)

CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible).

GANZ: Other Web sites snapped to attention. Reviews popped up on Cokemachineglow and Stylist magazine. On Stereogum, a blogger by the name of Greg The Boyfriend wrote, `I know you've heard a couple of songs, but if you don't have the album, you are a fool.'

(Soundbite of song)

CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible). gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme. And I don't care if you don't like it (unintelligible).

GANZ: On June 20th, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah played a show in New York City hosted by Gothamist. Afterwards, that Web site reported that David Bowie was in the audience. This, of course, set off a new wave of Internet buzz. Just two days later, Pitchfork reviewed the full album and gave it an unqualified rave. After two weeks, the din on the Internet was deafening. Yet for the band it was little more than background noise. Lead singer Alec Ounsworth.

Mr. ALEC OUNSWORTH (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah): Somebody sent me an e-mail saying, `Good job on the Pitchfork review.' And I wasn't sure what they were talking about. That was my first introduction to Pitchfork.

GANZ: Within a week, the go-to online retailer for all things indie rock and the only place that stocked the album, had completely sold out. The fact that nobody could actually get their hands on the record only increased demand. The band pressed 2,000, then 5,000 and eventually 10,000 copies of the CD. Alec Ounsworth found himself doing a whole lot of stapling, addressing envelopes, licking stamps.

Mr. OUNSWORTH: People would write in. People had heard it here and there, and they'd ask for it from different parts of the world. I'd be at home in Philadelphia packaging all the CDs myself, and it was humanly impossible perhaps.

GANZ: To lift the burden of shipping records, the musicians signed a deal with a distribution company. While it means they make a little less on each sale, they retain control over all other aspects of their career, and they're still pulling in about $4 profit on each CD, a lot more than a band on a major label. To date Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has sold 25,000 copies of its debut. While that's not much yet, even by indie standards, it's remarkable for a self-released record.

(Soundbite of song)

CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH: (Singing) It's so much different to me. Yes, I know. And I'm only enemy, pain is all that I can see, whoa-oh-oh. I see you're climbing a tree, and I know that it's easier to see up high in the air, yeah. Is it love? Is it love? Is it love? Is it love? Is it love? Is it love? Is it love? Is it love?

GANZ: In the months following the review on Pitchfork, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah appeared in The New York and Los Angeles Times, was picked for Rolling Stone's Hot List and played a much-hyped set at the indie-centric CMJ Music Festival in September. And then came attention from labels of all sizes. Alec Ounsworth says the band is not wedded to independence.

Mr. OUNSWORTH: It was apparent that things were going well enough that it might work to everyone's advantage that we be on a label.

GANZ: But Pitchfork's Ryan Schreiber commends Clap Your Hands Say Yeah for sticking with the independent approach.

Mr. SCHREIBER: The initial thing that most people would do in their situation is, `Oh, man, we need a label really quick.' And especially if there's a lot of interest all of a sudden like there was for them, you know, it might be tempting to sign all that stuff over, the not-fun stuff, to a label and have them handle it.

GANZ: One guy who handles that `not-fun stuff' for a bunch of bands is Barsuk Records' Josh Rosenfeld. He says today's do-it-yourself musicians have technological advantages at their fingertips that give them the potential to threaten the mainstream record industry.

Mr. ROSENFELD: Theoretically, technology is presenting options for artists who want to entirely fund, distribute, market their own recordings. But most artists are not going to have the experience that Clap Your Hands has had with all the theoretical benefits that the Internet provides falling in line.

GANZ: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah may have found fame even without that perfect storm of Internet hype, e-commerce and a rabid fan response, but it might not have happened so quickly. Pop music has leaned on the cliche of the overnight sensation for decades. As those two weeks in June show, the Internet age has moved us a little closer to the real thing. Jacob Ganz, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song)

CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH: (Singing) Oh, oh, oh, oh.

BLOCK: You can hear more music from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and read the blog postings that created all the buzz at our Web site,

SIEGEL: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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