As we hurtle toward 2017 and the start of the Trump era, artists and creative folks in all disciplines have been struggling with the question: How can I use what I do to stand for my values? Sometimes, it means opining that you wish you had a brave abortion story to tell; sometimes, it means embracing the timeliness of your blockbuster film about rebels battling a fascistic regime. In the case of Rough Trade Publishing, they’ve taken a slightly different tack for using their resources–music and musicians–to do something they believe in.
That manifests itself in the form of “A Song A Day To Keep The Pain Away,” a 90-day subscription to one new song from a Rough Trade artist every single day for the first three months of 2017. For $20.17, paid via Bandcamp, fans can sign up for the project. In return, artists including Rachel Grimes, Kevin Devine, Julianna Hatfield, and Lushlife will bring new or previously unreleased material to your inbox each morning as you seek ways to find the way to face the bleak day ahead of you.
“I’ve been part of the DIY punk scene for a very long time, and I’ve been thinking of what to do to follow up once the election happened,” explains Rough Trade Publishing president Lyle Hysen. “At first, I was working on setting up a show–and I’m still working on that–but I wanted something with more sustainability. ‘A Song A Day’ is just the beginning.”
Like a lot of people in creative fields, the folks at Rough Trade took the election results hard. (Hysen sent his staff home on November 9 after seeing the funk his office was in.) Channeling that bad feeling into something positive and hopeful has been good for morale–both for the staff and for the musicians whose work they publish.
“Many of them were just happy that we thought of something for them to do,” Hysen says. “A lot of people are feeling helpless about what is going on politically, and this gives them an outlet to use what they’re good at to really do something.”
That’s important, as people look for ways to use their art to bring some meaning to times that do feel pretty dark. And if this starts a trend of other publishers and labels looking to do the same thing, well, Hysen would be just fine with that.
“This is an opening salvo for sure, and we’ll be doing some things that aren’t so outward-facing,” he says. “Most importantly, I hope that it helps kick start other bands and publishers to kick out the jams. Every little thing will help, and hopefully these thing will make people start to feel a little better under the new–ugh–regime.”