The name Mike Marchant is probably familiar to readers of Reverb and followers of Colorado music. The singer-songwriter has garnered plenty of local press, as a solo artist, as frontman for Widowers and as guitarist for Houses.
If it seems like we talk about Marchant a lot, that’s because he’s always impressing us with innovative ideas and interesting music. Back in December, we told you about the songwriting workshop he ran to bring aspiring artists together for the purpose of improving their craft. Now, we’re excited about the fact that he’s using his music to direct cash towards music-related non-profit organizations in the Denver area.
About a month ago, Mike Marchant released the third installment of his “Indulgent Space-Folk” EP series. Titled “Binary Beach,” the six-song collection is filled with Marchant’s trademark spacey pop and knack for a catchy, dreamy melody. Like the other EPs, its dense sound is enriched with synthesizers, loops, sequencers and tape delays. The lush sound is further augmented with vocals from Andy Hamilton of Houses on the title track, and additional guitar work by Brian Marcus of Widowers and Tjutjuna on another.
As noteworthy as the music on “Binary Beach” is, what’s even more remarkable is how Marchant is choosing to distribute it. Using the flexible, artist-friendly platform of Bandcamp, the young songwriter is using sales of the EP to support Radio 1190 and other non-profits.
“We were doing a benefit show for Titwrench Fest,” he recalls, “and they needed to raise money to fly Diane Cluck out for the festival. That got me thinking about putting a record up online and having all the money go somewhere else. I thought it might encourage people to give a couple bucks that I wouldn’t receive anyway since people mostly download stuff for free.”
When Marchant heard that an anonymous philanthropist had promised to match all donations made to Radio 1190 during this summer, he decided that the volunteer-run, independent radio station would be the first beneficiary of his experiment.
Folks who visit Marchant’s Bandcamp page can name their price for the EP — anywhere from FREE to thousands of dollars — and choose from any number of file formats — from perfectly serviceable 320 kbps MP3s to Ogg Vorbis and lossless FLAC. If those folks choose to pay $10 for the EP, Radio 1190 will get $20 at the end of the summer, thanks to Mike Marchant and his fans.
“1190 does so much for bands around here,” observes Marchant. “They promote our shows and play our records, and it’s essential to keep independent radio alive.”
So far, in the month since Marchant posted “Binary Beach” on Bandcamp, it has been downloaded about 327 times and generated $350, or a little over a dollar per download. However, with about one in six people actually choosing to pay, that puts the average purchase price well over $6. “That’s more than I would expect,” says Marchant, “and probably a lot less than other people expect.” Regardless, that will make a nice $700 donation to Radio 1190 at the end of the summer.
1190 isn’t the only group that will benefit from the Denver-based artist’s experiment in philanthropy. The original plan was to donate to a different non-profit arts organization every week, but that turned out to be too much overhead. However, Marchant plans to make a change very soon.
“Katherine Peterson [former host of 1190’s “Local Shakedown” and Reverb contributor] suggested that I donate to Girls Rock Denver,” he explains. “I think I’m gonna do that in the coming days.”
In the meantime, Marchant has almost another EP’s worth of music ready to release, and expects to offer that via Bandcamp before the summer is over. The first track released from that EP, “You Were a Runner,” can be heard on his Facebook page. It indicates a poppier and more organic approach than was taken on the previous EPs. “There are no synths, drum machines or loops,” he says. “Everything’s organic.”
Marchant is also in the midst of the painstaking recording process for the next Widowers album, which he says will be heavier and denser than the last Widowers release.
Until then, fans and soon-to-be fans would do well to download Marchant’s “Binary Beach” from Bandcamp, and feel warm and fuzzy about supporting a good cause. Also, Marchant will be playing with his rotating backing band, the Outer-Space Party Unit, tomorrow night (Saturday) at the Larimer Lounge, supporting the CD release show for Le Divorce. Tickets are just $4 in advance, or $8 on the day of the show.
Eryc Eyl is a veteran music journalist, critic and Colorado native who has been neck-deep in local music for many years. Check out Steal This Track every Tuesday for local music you can HEAR, and the Mile High Makeout every Friday. Against his mother’s advice, Eryc has also been known to tweet. You can also follow Steal This Track on Twitter. Sorry, Mom.