Asthmatic Kitty Records, the art-rock label based out of Indianapolis, Brooklyn and Lander, Wyo., leapt onto the charts last week when Sufjan Stevens’ All Delighted People EP debuted at number 48 on the Billboard Top 200, sandwiched between the Jonas Brothers (47) and Carrie Underwood (49) for the reporting period of Aug. 16-22. This sort of success for an “indie” label is not unheard of, even in the quite recent past: Arcade Fire’s new album, released on the non-conglomerated Merge label, debuted at number 1 on the Top 200 list three weeks back.
But Arcade Fire was on The Colbert Report last month. And All Delighted People, a digital-only (for now) odds-and-ends collection that includes a “17-minute guitar jam-for-single-mothers” (credit Asthmatic Kitty’s Website for that description), was released Aug. 20 with neither fanfare nor advance notice. It was initially made exclusively available for free audition and $5 download through the music store/archive Bandcamp, before making its way to Amazon.com, iTunes and the like on Aug. 23. Which means that all those sales that propelled Sufjan beyond Carrie Underwood,roughly 9000 EPs in the U.S., were made via Bandcamp.
Maybe this news points less to a general trend in the music industry and more towards the widespread fame of Sufjan Stevens, who will likely take over the world upon the Oct. 12 release of The Age of Adz, his first song-based album since 2005’s Illinois. (Tickets remain available for his Nov. 4 concert at the Hilbert Circle Theatre.)
But local Asthmatic Kitty reps John Beeler and Michael Kaufmann managed to extrapolate from Sufjan’s success, and they shared their takeaway during their Pecha Kucha 10 presentation Aug. 27 at The Vogue. The moral of the story, according to the two: “There is always someone better at marketing your product or brand and that person usually is a complete stranger to you and has a blender, Tea Party or barely used Twitter account.” Sufjan was the number one trending topic on Twitter for Aug. 20, the day the EP was released, and that sort of viral success basically trumped, in the minds of Beeler and Kaufmann, their previous attempts at creative, pre-meditated marketing.