Three Days Grace: Old Music, New Marketing

Twenty-five percent of the songs on Three Days Grace’s debut album ended up Top-5 singles.

Twenty-five percent of the songs on Three Days Grace’s sophomore album ended up Top-5 singles.

Do we understand each other?  There is no room to question the credentials of Three Days Grace.  As Canada’s premier alternative-metal missionaries, they bring the rasp in their voices, guitars, and outlook.

Last month saw the release of album number three: Life Starts Now.  The single “Break” is holding steady at #7 in its 6th week on the charts.  If it rises no higher, is that a letdown?  Would you say the guys are losing their touch?  To even ask the question reinforces how impressive their career has been from the very outset.  And no, it’s not a letdown.

Since Barry Stock was recruited in 2006 to relieve singer Adam Gontier of lead guitar duties, the band has been a quartet, and their increase in number has continued to represent an increase in sonic energy.  Life Starts Now shows not only meatier arrangements – the kind of rock music that expands to rattle every corner of a room – but also technical improvement on the part of each musician.  Focus on their craft has enabled more engaging drumwork and widened the range of pitch and timbre accessed during guitar solos.  Even the bass, normally the band’s weakness, has advanced to a level of competence.

Minor deviations from the normal songwriting framework make themselves known without disrupting the consistency of the band’s corpus.  Odd meters are subtly present and there is a greater emphasis on solo work than on previous offerings.  Still, verses and bridges are right where you expect them to be, you can scream along to every chorus, and an iconic guitar hook remains the raging heart of every song.

Two probable attempts at ballads remind us (and hopefully remind Jive Records) why the self-titled album didn’t have any.  “Lost in You” simply isn’t believable, as an honest Gontier can’t hide the anger that composes his soul despite lyrics bordering on sensitive and clean guitars resolving suspended 6ths into warm-and-fuzzy major triads.  The listener is given more credit by “Last to Know” as unplugged strings and a piano lead us through a tale of depression springing from frustration without hope.

Three Days Grace has a formula that works.  Life Starts Now shows an increase in talent with no drop in raw appeal.  By this time next year the hard rockers may have another set of Top-5 singles for their collection.

At the moment, there is a peripheral matter that catches my interest.  Maybe the aging and unchanging sound of the band concerns Jive, maybe Three Days Grace is trying to compensate for the recession, or maybe the guys just had a cool idea and made it happen.  For whatever reason, the band’s website is advertising a colorful variety of options for purchasing their new record.

For the iTunes-fed, blossoming young gorger of all things mainstream, “exclusive behind the scenes video downloads” are packaged with the digital download to entice a purchase directly from the website rather than through, oh, I don’t know, BitTorrent, which tends to be cheaper.

For the collector who doesn’t roll with headphones growing out of his pocket and around his ears like ivy, a hard cd can be ordered – again, with bonus media as thanks for cutting out the middle man.

For real fans, the kind who come out to shows and tell their friends about Three Days Grace, a limited-edition t-shirt can be shipped along with the album.

Beyond that, things get interesting.  The “Deluxe Package” (now sold out) is priced at $60 and includes a pile of swag – half physical, half digital – compelling enough to merit serious consideration even from teenagers living on an allowance or fast-food wages.  Towering above at $100 is the “Super Deluxe Package,” replete with bonuses from a cd signed and numbered by the band to a “smashed piece of a Three Days Grace guitar.”  That’s as exclusive as it gets.

I recently saw a similar gradient of offers posted by progressive rock outfit Spock’s Beard.  In an attempt to raise funds for their self-released tenth album, they put the album on presale before going to studio to record it.  Merchandise options included packages similar to those marketed by Three Days Grace, headed by a $200 “Ultra Package” with an intangible premier benefit:

“…And finally, [you will get] your name written into the lyrics of a new Spock’s Beard song.  This track will include a vocal section where your name (or someone you choose) will be sung by the band.  This will be a full band, fully-produced song that requires a long list of names be sung as part of the lyric.”

Deals like these intrigue me.  Have other groups been making crazy offers and selling their new releases in such intense tiered packages?  Ten years from now, if the economy is back to prime form, will we still see offers like these for the most ravenous fans?

The answers likely depend on whether the music industry follows overall market fluctuations or diverges as the onward march of the digital age changes the game.  Personally, I’ve got my fingers crossed that this is a trend with some wings, ready to take off.

Colton O.

Colton O.

Colton drinks straight out of coconuts and writes about music for Earn This. He joined the site in 2009.

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