Mat Welsh of the Sheffield stalwarts While She Sleeps sat in for a session on The Downbeat with Craig Reynolds this week.
The catalyst for the discussion was the band's recent announcement that aims to transform the dynamic between fans and their favorite bands in a way that establishes a direct link in an effort to create a more sustainable environment for artists, while incentivizing fans.
Essentially eliminating the big industry middle man, While She Sleeps is launching their Sleeps Society as a direct-to-consumer model that turns fans into shareholders while simultaneously asserting a sense of community. Offering membership with unprecedented access to the band, plus a catalog of regularly replenished content that goes well beyond the conventional music videos and backstage b-roll, the Society really does establish a direct line with the band for those willing to show their support.
Instrumental play-throughs, tutorial video series from professionals with unique expertise in the business, in-studio live streaming sessions, early access to tour tickets, exclusive merchandise, warehouse meet-ups, events, and secret 'members only' shows - Sleeps Society nurtures a mutualism between the fans and the artists they love by paving a lane for direct support thus allowing the artists focus best on delivering a premium product for the fans that have taken stock.
Such an ambitious plan merits a grandiose introduction. The band ensured that was covered by pairing the announcement with their first single of the same title, "Sleeps Society." Opting to embrace a noticeably heavy synth sound for the first single of their forthcoming fifth record, the track showcases the band's versatility - an evolution that makes added sense when paired with the unveiling of the new direct-to-fan model.
As for the genesis of the concept, Welsh detailed that the idea began getting kicked around a few years ago. In the years since, the band had to navigate refining Sleeps Society while ensuring not to run afoul with management, labels, etc. Then, the end of February 2020 and the beginning of the pandemic lockdown sent the world into a tailspin and all but eliminated live music, touring, and life as everyone knew it.
With conventional means of connecting with fans and frankly, earning a living gone for the foreseeable future, the band became especially motivated to make a move in officially launching Sleeps Society as a way to challenge the status quo and create a new means of sustainability.
Providing some context of just why the notion of sustainability is such an important, unaddressed aspect of the business, Reynolds and Welsh did a bit of math. Currently, an artist needs to amass 5,000 song-streams for the band to earn 20 quid. ztranslated to US dollars, that's all of $25 dollars. The numbers allow for a much better understanding of why the current model is such a losing battle for the artists.
Aside from building a better spaceship, Welsh reiterated the concept of community within Sleeps Society. Detailing the various tiers and the kind of access fans get, plus the deliverables the band is responsible for, there was a consensus that While She Sleeps really is offering almost too much, but it's that kind of consideration for the fans that the band realizes will make or break this effort. Constantly creating content and managing the various tiers, and fulfilling the expectations that come with the membership is a hell of a workload, but it's a workload that Welsh and the band are appreciative to oblige given the support they are being shown.
Listen to the complete conversation between Craig Reynolds and Mat Welsh of While She Sleeps on the latest installment of The Downbeat.