Recording an album is mighty expensive. Record labels typically swallow those costs if the band is signed but for Vancouver's Ivory Sky, payment falls squarely on the shoulders of the three young band members. And it ain't cheap.
They recorded and self-released their debut album Heartbeats earlier this year and to recoup their costs they took their music to the streets. That's right: busking. They sell between 15 and 20 CDs each time they busk and vocalist/guitarist Colyn Cameron says the band has already paid off the cost of the first 1,000 CDs they pressed. He says busking has been excellent self-promotion - literally everyone and their dogs get a taste of their tunes - and it doesn't hurt that their brand of wistful indie-folk lends itself to the open concept of Granville Island market.
"If you have a good new sound, and have a little experience of people liking it outside of busking in a more professional setting, then when you busk you have this ability to almost transform (the space)," he says.
Ivory Sky can draw a crowd, as buskers often do, but they'll often hold people in place for an entire set. Most of them have probably never heard of Ivory Sky but hear something familiar in their 21st century take on Simon and Garfunkel's pastoral songcraft.
But some of them (or you, for that matter) may recognize them from The Graduate. No, not Simon and Garfunkel. Six of Ivory Sky's songs are featured in the Arts Club Theatre Company's Vancouver production of The Graduate , which has earned the band considerable attention from the media and a growing fan base - an exceptional achievement given that the band has only been playing together for a year.
In June, Ivory Sky won a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for Best Original Composition for their work in the play. They were the only band up for the award that was an actual band, competing against more established composers, and it may well have helped them secure the win.
"It was something and fresh maybe for the whole theatre community to have. That was probably part of it, for sure," Cameron says.
All band members - Cameron, Malcom Dowe and Jett Pace - grew up together, but went their separate ways after high school only to reconnect in early 2010. They picked up their instruments and it all seemed to click.
"We had some songs that we started playing and it was like, 'Let's go play these for people,'" Cameron says.
They've been playing as much as possible in and around Vancouver, at odds with the prevailing notion that many Vancouver bands share that playing too often is bad for business. But for Ivory Sky, it's all about playing all the time as much as they can. It might be for the love of the craft. It might be a nagging inability to sit still. It might also be a quicker way for all three men to hit Malcom Gladwell's supposed 10,000 hours to perfect their craft, but they play every free chance they have, regardless of the venue. For their upcoming West Coast tour, Cameron says they'll busk each day before their scheduled shows.
"We're going to try to make the most of it every day and not take too much time," he says. "We're not going to have any days off."
Hell, they need to pay for that album somehow.