Great Indy Bands Struggle to be Heard

By Richard Menta 1/22/06

I am a fan of the Asbury Lanes, a tiny 1950's 16 lane bowling alley that survived, vintage interior intact, by changing its focus to music rather than the sport itself. Asbury Park is a flattened town, once one of the premier shore towns in the US and now victim of 1960's racial unrest, the collapse of the local economy, and a sustained deterioration of its infrastructure caused by neglect. It is the city Bruce Springsteen sings about in "My City of Ruins" and Bruce himself no doubt frequented these lanes in his youth when it was a bowling alley first and foremost. Depite the calamity it is still a rock-and-roll town.

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If you look at the outside of the building you would swear that it was shuttered like almost everything else in Asbury Park. Indeed, the lanes are closed most of the day, opening in the late afternoon five days a week for music and bowling. The bowling costs $10 per person for the night, a bargain anywhere. That's OK because this is a rock club first. Rather than enter a club sporting some mock-vintage deco, the inside of the Asbury lanes is original and straight out of the space race/Danish modern era. A time of fins on cars and pastel colors layered between white and chrome.

No, the Asbury Lanes never closed. It has been in operation for over 50 years with the present owners running it since 1961. They witnessed the full descent of this town as the business is located only a block from the water. It survives now playing on the old movie/rock cliché - as the bands perform on a stage built over the middle four lanes bowlers continue to bowl all night on the remaining twelve. Surprisingly, the loud sound of ball striking pin is muted by the lanes sound system and never interrupts the band we came to see.

Predator Dub Assassin is one of the most polished unsigned artists I have heard in a long time. They have the whole package, playing great original songs that are a dead ringer for the roots reggae tunes that are the basis for their sound. Their music is as authentic as the Asbury Lanes and of all the mediocrity I hear on the FM band as I commute to my day job it again makes me wonder aloud who is spinning the vinyl at the local radio stations these days. These guys should be stars.

Before the show I spoke briefly with the band's front man Tim Boyce. I asked him about independent bands and how his group is utilizing the Net. Tim told me he was signed to a label once, but money never seemed to come in. Their latest CD was self produced and they sell it themselves at their shows. He then volunteered the economics for me.

When you are signed to a label you get $0.70 per CD. Break even costs run about $9.00. Tim then told me that the PDubs latest CD cost them (including studio efforts and disc manufacturing) about $2.50 a CD. They sell them for $10, pocketing $7.50 or ten times more than a label would pay them.

As for the Internet, their Website offers three of their tunes online for free. Tim confessed he had concerns about giving everything away for free and so gave away his mixed feeling about file sharing and the P2P applications that foster this activity. The person who managed their site went MIA recently and so the band is looking for someone else to update it regularly for them. A peek at the shows section of their site confirms this as September 2005 is the last performance promoted on it. For those interested, they play at McCann's in another shore town, Belmar, NJ, every Friday night.

Yup, it's tough to be an indie band. While the Net helps empower artists to earn their own revenues from their music, labels still offer the marketing muscle to rise above the white noise of millions of aspiring acts. Like the Whos shouting "We're Here, We're Here" in hopes they are heard from their life-bearing speck on the head of a clover, talent like the PDubs have to find their own mix to be heard over the din of society. Despite a growing fan base it's not easy.

Good luck gentlemen.

Predator Dub Assassins Web Site

Other MP3 stories:
The Net is the Independent Artist's Radio
The Digital Media Winners of 2005
The Digital Media Losers of 2005


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