How Domes made a music video for "free"

The value of open access to knowledge, art and media.

The new Domes’ track is accompanied by the band’s first narrative video. I wrote that the song’s aesthetic was inspired by reading about photographers exploring Soviet-era sites and images of “brutalist infrastructure and heavy machinery out of time in terrible suspension.” An artist tries to capture an idea and wonders how intact it may be transmitted through the medium to the audience. So, it was heartening to receive this very considered review from Muzic.net.nz:

Delicately picked, sparse, clean guitars in the verse collapse under the weight of the enormous wall of distorted guitars in the chorus. The chorus chord progression is compelling, and winds the listener through a kind of harmonic narrative. The meaning of the lyrics is veiled in metaphor and just beyond reach…

R is dark and clever, like a mad scientist. The song effortlessly evokes images of Russian winters and space exploration, while lamenting an uncertain future. A great track to listen to, while you sit and ponder on humanity's relative insignificance in an unfathomably large universe.

In a post explaining Domes’ financial and release strategies, I described contemporary industry realities and self-imposed constraints. Recording is our collective priority and all invested capital needs to support that mission:

Before we consider any idea or opportunity that may divert funds away from that objective, we reflect on whether a similar experience made all the difference in our previous bands or if, all things being equal, the money would have been better spent recording another album. The essential challenge to evaluate any prospect becomes, "Is this more important than funding the next recording experience?" This keeps us focused and radically simplifies our expectations.

With this in mind, we’ve previously deferred making music videos (bar a lyric video). However, the band felt compelled to do something different to mark the release of the final track from a special recording experience. In thinking about how to achieve this within our constraints, we were inspired by Gramsci and reminded of Battle Circus’ use of public domain content which seemed a cost-effective strategy.

Having done eight more “traditional” videos before this with budgets ranging from NZ$2,000 to NZ$8,000, it’s interesting to reflect on what we might have learnt. For a detailed if dated look at what used to be our benchmark, see How an independent, niche band makes a music video — in New Zealand (2014). Naturally, local artists are no longer dependent upon terrestrial broadcasting in the same way as we imagined six years ago when Decortica felt video was a promotional must do. Notwithstanding the algorithmic discoverability and potential monetisation of music videos, for Domes, it’s more of a should do and pragmatically a nice to have.

We spent hours scouring content from Creative Commons and public domain archives. This was a personal lesson in the value of open access to knowledge, art and media—and contributing back that body of work by means of iteration and reciprocal licensing. If you’re not familiar with it, Creative Commons, “is a nonprofit organization that helps overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world’s pressing challenges,” by providing means to manage permissions for, properly attribute, copy, remix and distribute copyrighted material. Learning Adobe Premiere Pro on the fly, bassist Brendon Kahi created a DIY-ethic meets VHS-aesthetic composite of retro sci-fi and 20th century superpower tensions from a rich array of dramatic, news and documentary media.

The result was unexpectedly complimentary to the song and essentially “free” to make. It mostly just cost our time—in and around our full-time jobs and busy lives. That is, it occupied the space we reverse for our creative energy but became a very worthwhile side project. And it proved both nice to have and effective in driving engagement with the band’s niche audience.


Pay what you can for Domes’ new track, “R,” on Bandcamp. 🖤

Have you created DIY music videos? I’d love to hear about your experience. 📹

Until next time,

M.


This post was originally published in the Rothko Records newsletter.

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