Almost a year after its release, AM and Shawn Lee's promotional efforts for "Celestial Electric" pay off.
The music industry's changing in so many ways, but one that isn't is promotion. Technology has made the early release of free mp3s possible, and daily music news websites make soft news such as cover art previews and tracklisting announcements possible, but once the album's out, an artist has three months or so to push it, after which time the label cuts bait and moves on if nothing's happening.
"It's a short-sighted way to go about things," says AM, who's still working to find an audience almost a year later for Celestial Electric, the album he cut with Shawn Lee. AM is a Loyola grad from the Northshore who's based in Los Angeles these days, and even though the album came out last fall, "I honestly feel that any record you haven't heard before is 'new'."
The album was well if not widely reviewed. Tiny Mix Tapes wrote:
Pooling their efforts into Celestial Electric, the duo have pulled off the nigh impossible: They have made an album that sounds now, blurring funk, pop, and “world music” genres beyond their established capabilities, yet remaining so true to a classic aesthetic that the album could be dug out of a crate without a label and confound listeners to pinpoint its origin.
It proves possible to take in the constant sunshine of California through AM's higher range vocals and some lovely guitar work, coupled with outer range studio subtleties that give a wider sound. Meanwhile Shawn Lee brings grittier London beats to the lower end, offering a bit of edgy groove to complement the soulfulness found up top.
And Under the Radar wrote:
Los Angeles-based AM and London-based Shawn Lee both have an inherent feel for unadulterated soul vibes and funk tempos filtered through '70s soundtracks. These soul boys found each other across oceans and joined forces to create Celestial Electric. Together, the duo's understanding of classic sounds take on a modern flavor that enhances what each artist does exponentially.
AM and Lee did their part, touring and releasing a series of YouTube videos that document how the two made the album, passing tracks to each other so that they could work on them from their respective homes. But, Celestial Electric faced what AM calls "Small Label Syndrome."
"If you have an unlimited budget, the game changes," he says. "You can promote things for longer because really, all promotion is is keeping people on staff." The label, ESL, didn't have that sort of budget, but it did put out a couple of remix EPs to help keep attention on the project. For the most part though, AM and Lee have found an audience for the album one live show at a time.
Those shows don't only put the artist in front of a crowd of people, though. "They give you a reason to keep talking about the record," AM says, and that keeps alive the possibility that something will happen. In their case, after they'd finished a follow-up album and put out a call through PledgeMusic.com for funding to help release the album--funding they're still looking for--Celestial Electric garnered new interest. "A few blogs wrote about a song from Celestial Electric ["Somebody Like You"] and all of a sudden, it got picked up on Hype Machine and went crazy," he says. "Then it feeds itself. More people are seeing it, and more people are listening to it and spreading the word about it. It starts to generate this automatic cycle of awareness. That never would have happened if we would have said, 'Oh well. That's it. We're done.''"