"All the Love You Need" from the album All the Love You Need
""Her Own Kind of Woman" from the album All the Love You Need
Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd & The Monsters has been in the music business long enough to remember the pre-downloading days when major labels spent considerable money trying to turn acts on their rosters into stars.
"On a major label scale, a half million dollars was probably on the low end of how much labels spent to push their goods to the public," says the singer/guitarist. "That definitely was what got us on the map. When we were with Giant/Warner Bros., it was that kind of effort that initially got us a platinum record, which was Sister Sweetly. So I definitely can't discount what took place there."
But Mohr knows that for his band and the vast majority of musical acts, those big-spending days are a distant memory. As a result, the ways groups get their music heard and build their audiences has to change.
"Unfortunately, those major label avenues just aren't available for a band like us," he says. "It seems like people are really having to be inventive and creative to find ways to make it work."
Big Head Todd & The Monsters are taking a multi-faceted approach with their latest album release All the Love You Need, beginning with an unprecedented radio promotion.
In January, four radio stations mailed free copies of All the Love You Need to listener mailing lists. Nearly 500,000 copies of the disc found their way into the hands of music fans through these mailings.
"Obviously getting exposed to new people is the name of the game for Big Head Todd & The Monsters," Mohr says. "We are really looking forward to seeing how it reacts, and if it brings new fans in. But I can't imagine how it's going to hurt. Neither of the last two albums [2002's Riveria and 2004's Crimes Of Passion] sold over 50,000 units, so it makes a lot more sense for us to be mailing out a half million than selling 50,000."
The launch of All the Love You Need didn't end with the radio station mailings. It is also available from the group's website to download for free or for purchase with a bonus DVD that includes interviews on the making of the album as well as rehearsal and concert footage.
Mohr, bassist Rob Squires, and drummer Brian Nevin formed the band in 1986. They recently brought on touring keyboardist Jeremy Lawton as a full-fledged member.
All the Love You Need is one of the stronger albums by the band, weighted more toward catchy rockers than some other Big Head Todd studio albums. With the bluesy, hard-edged "Cash Box," "Blue Sky," and "Her Own Kinda Woman," the group has come up with three of the strongest songs of its career.
Mohr says the emphasis on upbeat material is no accident. "I was very keen on having it be uptempo and kind of punk rocky," he says.
Some fans may be familiar with about half of the songs on All the Love You Need. The band has been playing several of the songs in concert for some time, and early versions have been streamed for free on the group's website during the past year or so. The group launched a podcast program that has seen dozens of songs — including previously released studio tracks, unreleased live cuts, and demos of both early songs and newly written material — posted on a regular basis. Many of the songs have been available for download through a subscription program with online music services such as iTunes.
Mohr is a strong advocate of making music available for free, and he sees the release of new songs and albums mainly as a way to build the audience for his band's live shows.
"I've been kind of on this trail for awhile," Mohr says. "It kind of dawned on me the moment peer-to-peer started to happen, with the first Napster experiment. At that point it was just kind of a brutal realization that however much [a CD] costs on Napster was about how much it's worth. The kind of numbers that are occurring as far as peer-to-peer stuff goes, they dwarf sales. We historically have not made a lot of money off of records anyway. I don't know of that many bands that do. Our bread and butter is our live show and getting fans in general that are going to follow us and buy our merchandise and stuff like that. So I'm just totally thrilled to still have a career these days and watching the record industry tank.
"We are all happy doing what we're doing," he adds. "We've had a very consistent schedule over the past five or six years that's been a nice balance of being home and being out on the road. When you find that balance, it's nice being out on tour. I enjoy pretty much every moment of touring. Basically, we're not really out supporting specific records so much as we are presenting our catalog. It gives us a lot more freedom."