The winds of change are upon the music industry.
Ari Hest knows that as well as anybody. The Brooklyn-based songwriter was dropped from Columbia Records after only one long-player. But instead of resorting to customary methods to jump-start his career, he’s enterprising.
Starting the first of the year, Hest launched a music project called 52. Listeners can subscribe to it on his Web site, www.arihest.com, and receive a new song from Hest every week for the duration of 2008.
“I had all these songs I thought were ready to go, and I wanted to do something right away,” says Hest in explaining his ambitious experiment. He also thought it was simply a novel idea — one quite disparate from the record label formula.
“Instead of making a regular old album, [I would] involve the fans more and do something that’s more a communal effort,” Hest says.
It’s worked so far. Hest registered hundreds of subscribers in 52’s first month. Comments left by fans on the Web site have been mostly positive.
It hasn’t always been easy. Hest started with a surplus of about seven or eight songs. He’s now having to release them as he writes them. Fortunately, the modest yet masterful melodies that define his music seemingly spill out of him. It’s the lyrics that can give him fits.
“In that case I’ve been summoning my friends for ideas in case my life isn’t interesting enough at the time,” Hest says.
Another benefit is that Hest is writing and recording all the material in his apartment. Subscribers to 52 will help him choose what tracks to have on his next CD. At that point, Hest plans to bring a producer on board to add more flesh to his compositions.
“These are full songs, but they’re usually not big productions,” he says of his current process. “Once I finish writing the song I’m usually ready to record rather than thinking about production ideas to round it out. I’m more going for something raw on most of these songs.”
Overall, Hest says 52 has been everything he expected.
“I have some days where [I think] I don’t want to do this right now,” he says. “But every time I finish a song I’m very excited about it. Personally, it’s a motivating thing for me. The main goal was for me to conquer the challenge I had given myself.”
He sees this as something record labels could start doing — such as a subscription service to unlimited downloads of their artists. But it’s not a direction Hest is necessarily happy with.
“It’s not a pleasing thought to think everybody will have to do something like this,” he says. “But the way things are going, I just wanted to try something different.”