Between Depeche Mode albums, the iconic electronic band’s co-founder and principal songwriter Martin Gore is experimenting with new ways to distribute and promote music. Following the April release of his instrumental solo album MG, Gore is holding an open contest to remix the track “Featherlight,” with the winning remix appearing on a digital EP due October 2 on Mute. The stems for the track as well as bonus video content are available today as a free BitTorrent Bundle, making Gore the latest artist to use the once-maligned peer-to-peer technology to distribute multi-media content. Slash distributed a live release recently on BitTorrent.
“Remixes have always been a big part of what Depeche Mode has done, and that carries through to what I’ve done,” says Gore, whose previous solo album was 2003’s “Counterfeit.” “It’s also about finding innovative ways to promote the music after the album release, so it was suggested that we do a remix competition, which I think is good because it engages quite a lot of people, and maybe a slightly different audience as well. Maybe people who are into tech who might not have gone out and bought the music, but are interested in that angle and interested to hear what the music sounds like.”
The music on MG certainly sounds different than what Depeche Mode fans might be familiar with. It’s more atmospheric and meditative, but also leaves a lot of space for creative variation. Gore suggests selective and focused creativity, however.
“I’m very open, but I’ve always said over the years that for me a perfect remix has to surprise you, but at the same time, it has to have a tie to the original song,” he says. “We’ve had quite a number of remixes done over the years that bear no relevance to the actual song whatsoever. They don’t have the same tempo, they don’t have any of the parts, it’s just like a completely different track. Sometimes they’re quite good, but for me that’s not a remix.”
Adding vocals isn’t necessarily off limits, within reason. “I would imagine that people would keep it instrumental, but it depends on what sort of vocals,” says Gore. “I can’t imagine someone adding lyrics and a vocal part to it, I would be very surprised. If it was kind of like choral parts or something, I’d be open to that. If the lyrics were fantastic, maybe I’d even be open to that.”
The MGxMG Remix Bundle available through BitTorrent includes a video for the track “Europa Hymn,” a video interview with Gore, the full “Featherlight” track, and the “Featherlight” stems for remixing. The deadline for contestants to upload their remix to Soundcloud is August 21, with the winning remix announced August 31.
Unlike a storefront or service, BitTorrent Bundle is a download-only product that protects multimedia content behind a gate that can be unlocked for a price set by the publisher and promoted on any site or platform. The gate travels with the content as it is shared. Files are DRM-free, and the artist or publisher keeps all revenue except for transaction costs and BitTorrent’s 10% cut. Like many promotion-focused bundles, MGxMG is free, but artists like Slash and filmmakers like comedian David Cross have recently used Bundle to release revenue-generating projects. The product’s flexibility in pricing, marketing, and file size has helped to legitimize the BitTorrent brand, which has long been associated with the fact that the tech is popular for pirating copyrighted material.
“BitTorrent is trying to empower artists to do different things, it’s a good way of getting a large file out, and I think it’s a cool way to go,” says Gore. “The term BitTorrent in general has such a negative connotation for a lot of people, but now it’s more acceptable and legit.”
As for whether Depeche Mode might try an alternative distribution avenue for their next release? “You never know,” says Gore, who is only in early stages of writing new material for a follow-up to 2013’s Delta Machine. “We haven’t even started working on an album. We would never have spoken about it at this stage. But you never know.”