The Arctic Monkeys have established themselves as one of the most famous British bands of the century. Their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, was the quickest selling debut for any band in Britain. It still remains so. Their popularity caught on in only in 2003, and soon after their local success they were picked up by record labels, and grew to chart-topping success by 2005. The band is unique not only in their sound, but also in their approach to the music industry and to record companies. Their marketing and promotion took innovative directions in their early years, and many suggest that they are a marking point for a new way for bands to advertise themselves to the public. The release of their new album, Suck It and See on June 6 of this year, proves to be interesting. And although it has already received much criticism by fans, it looks to continue their innovative music tradition into the next decade.
Forming in 2001, they practiced together for two years before performing their first gig in Sheffield, 2003. Their gigs led them to record early demos in the city, and in total they created 17 songs that were collectively called Beneath the Boardwalk. They were given to fans at gigs on burned CDs, and were widely enjoyed by an expanding fanbase. This was the beginning of their innovative marketing and promotion – they distributed their songs for free, and they were file-shared online. The band had no problem with this, saying that they didn’t make the demos to make money. The fanbase operated as their marketing group, because the fans created an Arctic Monkeys Myspace and other fan sites. The band had no direction with these forms of publicity, and when asked about how they became famous so quickly, they said that they literally had no idea – they hadn’t done anything except write their music.
As they began spreading from Sheffield, the band released their debut single, Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys. The two songs on the single, ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’ and ‘From the Ritz to the Rubble’ were released only on 500 CDs. In the wake of this release, they performed at Leeds and Reading music festivals, where they attracted large crowds and also attracted much media attention. At this point, the band began dealing with larger record labels. They maintained a steady cynicism towards the industry, and aimed not to change their music to suit the likes of corporate tastes. They even went as far as refusing label scouts guaranteed guest list status, in a move to fend off the encroaching industry. But, inevitably, they were signed by Domino in 2005, only after two years of serious playing and writing. And it was with Domino that they released their biggest single yet – ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’.
This was the song that propelled them to fame. Within days of its release, it jumped straight to number one on the UK Singles Chart. This beat other hugely popular singles by Robbie Williams and Sugababes, astonishing many with the instant success. Featured on the cover of NME, their next single ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ gained instant appeal as well, and also topped the UK Singles Chart at number one. This was the next innovative feature of the band’s marketing – they managed to reach number one in the charts without any professional publicity. It was their music, their fans, and their hard work that achieved it. Many have claimed that this demonstrates a change in music industry practices of how bands ‘hit it big’, especially through their use of releasing free singles and by using open sites on the internet. All created and distributed by nobody else, but dedicated fans.
The band proceeded from here to release their first album in 2005, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. This album sent them off to tour America, where they quickly climbed on the Billboard album chart. It sold 34,000 copies within just a week of being released – a testament to their popularity. After touring, in 2006 they released a new EP called Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? But with their new fame, the bassist, Andy Nicholson decided he didn’t want to deal with the lifestyle they had chosen. He left, and was replaced by Nick O’Malley, who continues to play with them up to the present day. The next album released by the Arctic Monkeys was released in 2007: Favourite Worst Nightmare. This was followed by Humbug in 2009. Both of these albums continued to capture fans, and gain high acclaim by critics and industry professionals.
Their new album, Suck It and See, to be released this summer has received much controversy over the two singles released from it so far. ‘Brick By Brick’ and ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ demonstrate new directions for the band, which some fans aren’t too pleased with. But at this point, I’ll leave it up to you to decide how their songs sound. Give them a listen and see what you think. Regardless of what many think of it, the band will undoubtedly continue to play onward and record the material they want to record, with the steady determination they’ve had since their formation. All we can do is suck it and see.
‘Brick By Brick’ –
Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4xswSxRtGY&feature=related