Local hair band makes music free to download — are they wiggin’ out?

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Dyer Knight of Swoyersville may look like he just stepped out of a hot tub time machine from the year 1986, but the long-haired lead singer and bassist for Wicked Sins is relying on an innovative promotional tool that appears to be ahead of its time. Beginning April 1, Knight decided to make 13 original songs recorded by his band available to download for free; hoping to reach fans that would otherwise be skeptical to purchase his music.
Knight started Wicked Sins 17 years ago, he said, and its current line-up includes lead guitarist Van Michael Kinser, rhythm guitarist Ian Roberts and drummer Johnny Zabo.
“I realized it’s tough for an original band to sell an album,” Knight said. “There’s not very many avenues for me to promote my music without spending an exuberant amount of money. Yeah, there’s YouTube, but if you don’t know it exists, how are you going to know to go and watch it?”
Despite tens of thousands of dollars invested in recording original music and two decades of trying to make it big, the band still struggles to find a local audience.
“We really don’t play around here because the scene sort of killed us. It seems as though tribute bands are the big thing right now. That’s really where the money is,” he said. “A lot of people say they are in to new music or trying new things, but they’re really not. People like that comfort factor of knowing what they are going to get at a concert. The reason people like going to see tribute bands is because they know what they are going to get.”
Still, Knight doesn’t resent tribute bands.
“Venues have cut down,” he said. “There used to be Tinks. There used to be the Staircase Lounge in Pittston. There’s less opportunities to go out and promote my band live. I get it that tribute bands are what brings a following. I’m a businessman, too. I own my own business. I own a recording studio, The Gallery. It’s in Kingston.”
Knight said that if people come to see Wicked Sins perform live, they’ll have no idea what to expect. They won’t be able to sing along. Driven with passion and a sense for business, Knight decided to make his music free to download with the hope that new fans will discover his band’s music.
“If I make the album free, then now the consumer isn’t spending the money and taking a gamble to listen to something they may or may not like. If more people are downloading it because it’s free, and find out we are playing live, then there is more of a likelihood that they’ll come to our show. They’ll be familiar with our music,” Knight said.
The local musician realizes his method goes against everything the music industry seems to stand for, as the artist-owned streaming service, Tidal, launched with a mission to restore the value of music in the eyes (or ears) of listeners by making them pay for it. Big names like Jay Z, Beyoncé, Arcade Fire, Calvin Harris, Jason Aldean, Madonna and Rihanna are on board with Tidal; following in the footsteps of artists such as Taylor Swift, who pulled her music from Spotify in 2014.
“I understand I can’t pay my bills with happy thoughts and happy feelings,” Knight said. “Ultimately when you’re in a band, it’s a business. You’re trying to sell a product, whether it’s a CD, a T-Shirt or a live show. You have to advertise to get people to know you exist. This is a form of advertising.”
Knight said he has no problem with free music streaming. “If fans show up and pay to see my band live, I’m not going to worry about them paying to download my song. Take it as a gift and enjoy.”
Did you hear that, Kanye West?
Justin is well-known in Northeastern Pennsylvania for being a party boy, having written more than 200 “Sorry Mom & Dad” columns. While he is always up for a good time, he’s also a serious journalist who has written about controversial issues. When he’s not writing for Weekender, he’s working on his online talk show, “We the Millennials.” Contact him at 570-991-6652 and follow him on Instagram @justinadambrown