Metric – The Quintessential Canadian Indie Band

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I remember when Metric played Letterman for the first time. It was right after they put out their fourth studio album Fantasies in 2009 and I had this distinct feeling that I was watching things take off for them––that it was all finally happening.

As a teenager who gauged people by their musical knowledge, I didn’t like Metric at first because I thought that the hook in “Monster Hospital” (“I fought the war but the war won”) was a direct rip off of the Crickets song “I Fought The Law.” Of course in my infinite teenage wisdom, I didn’t quite realize that the band was in fact referencing the Bobby Fuller Four who had a hit cover version of the song in 1966 and that they had said so right in the lyrics. Oh well, you live and learn.

The moment I did finally decide that I liked them came when I discovered the song “Poster of A Girl,” and mostly because I couldn’t believe this slender white woman was singing the words: “Coming in your pants for the off chance.” I think Emily Haines’ sort of muted sexuality shocked me, so I bought all of the band’s records.

Metric really is the quintessential Canadian indie band. Not because that’s what we like to call every band these days but because as a band, Metric is actually a fully-functioning, self-sufficient business called Metric Music International.

Metric Music International is a whole different kind of independent label. It’s the sole body that houses their band and no one else’s (i.e. a direct connection between Metric and their fans). With hired in-house staff that handles everything from publicity and radio to sales and administration, everyone is working toward the attainment of the same goal––the success of Metric.

Metric formed in 1998, that was almost a decade before their Letterman performance so it really does go to show you that as a band, you need to wrap your head around going all in for the long haul if you ever want to come out on the other side of success.

As we continue to watch the gap between labels and artists widen, more and more independent bands are learning to do things themselves––it’s pretty well a necessity these days. Unfortunately, the nature of technology has put bands in a position to have to give away their music for free and that seems to have caused a major shift in work ethic.

Today, a lot of bands put their music out there and wash their hands of it thinking that they’ve done their part. Then they sit around hoping that the right person will hear it and that it’ll magically take off. That’s a really strange and lazy way of looking at things and it’s breeding a lot of inevitable failures. Bands are doing the X, Y and Z, and learning how to self-manage, self-market and self-promote, but they’re still out there leaving things up to chance and giving away their bread and butter for free.

If you were the CEO of a new sportswear line that was trying to break into the competitive marketplace and you were planning to go up against major brands like Nike and Adidas, you wouldn’t offer the consumer the exact same thing that they were already getting from your competitor, stop at that, and let the market decide, would you? No, you’d find out what they’re not offering and offer that instead. Yes, you need to play your part and yes you need to play the game, but you can’t do the exact same thing a million other people are already doing in the exact same way they’re doing it and expect a different result. Bands need to think the same way.

Look, there’s simply no way around it, if you play in an independent band and you want to “make it big,” you have to work harder and longer than everyone else around you until you do, especially today. Metric truly is proof that an independent band that never waivers and is willing to almost go bankrupt in the process, can have a long and lush career in music and succeed on an international scale.

You can catch Metric at home here in Toronto this week during CMW 2013 when they will be performing at the SiriusXM Indie Awards on Friday, March 22nd.

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