SameDiff BNL

Barenaked Ladies Reflect on Napster, Radio Changes

By MIKE STANDISH, Yahoo News, March 14th, 2001.

A lot has changed since the Barenaked Ladies released their 1998 album, S tunt. The Canadian quintet had been big in its homeland for years, but not until the single "One Week" hit the radio did the band develop a substantial following in the United States. But now, with the success of their latest LP, Maroon, the Ladies have two multiplatinum albums on their resume.

But BNL co-frontman Steven Page says that since achieving this success, the group has watched the music industry change — in both good ways and bad.

The biggest recent development is of course Napster. And according to Page, the advent of song-swapping services is a mixed blessing.

"Our record sales were hurt because Maroon came out at about the same time as all the Napster hype," he says. "What bugs me is the feeling of relief. People are like, 'Finally, music is free.'"

Page's seemingly anti-Napster stance is no surprise — he is in a band, after all, that put what appeared to be BNL songs on the service but were actually audio promos for the group's Web site. And he makes it clear that Napster does hurt young artists: "Bands who just signed their first record deal and put out their first record — they have a radio hit and people just download the song but don't buy the album."

But Page doesn't think Napster is all bad.

"Napster is fine if you want that 11-and-a-half-minute version of some Deep Purple song," he says. "- the technology is paving the way. I look forward to the day you can digitally download music without the middle man [but have the artist still get paid.]"

Another challenge, and opportunity, for artists is breaking a song in an environment that's not as friendly as it used to be.

"The climate for music isn't as good now. Music is ghettoized. You have Top 40 pop, metal, and then this stuff on the fringe," Page explains. "The disheartening thing to me is the alternative stations I listened to as a kid [play metal now]. This is the stuff I was trying to get away from!"

With radio station playlists becoming increasingly homogenous, it's becoming hard for artists to build an audience. Page and BNL worked through this with relentless touring throughout the States, a necessity that's sometimes lost on other bands.

"Canadian artists have this misconception that you can just hop on a tour bus and play L.A., Chicago, New York, and you've toured the United States," Page says. "But you have to build an audience. Word of mouth was huge for us. — The second time you come through a town, your audience is twice as big."

BNL is on the road now, and the last time it wrapped a tour, it went into the studio and produced Maroon. Is the band ready to record again? Page says yes, though he hasn't written any new material yet. But expect another batch of quirky BNL music in the fall.