HEAR YE: DAVID BYRNE AND BRIAN ENO Everything That Happens Will Happen Today


Now playing on Phawker Radio! Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same. As it. Ever. WAS.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rolling Stone asked me to cover the opening night of the David Byrne tour at Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem tonight. The tour ends November 8th at the Tower. Standby for a complete report.

WIKIPEDIA: In December 2007, David Byrne announced on the BBC Radio music show, The Weekender, that he was working with musician/producer and former collaborator Brian Eno on a brand new album of “proper songs”, describing it as a “completely different thing” from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which was mostly experimental.[3] While discussing the 2006 remix of that album at a dinner party, Eno suggested finishing some songs that he had written and intended to finish[4] but that did not have lyrics[5], some of which were eight years old.[6] Byrne visited Eno’s studio to listen to the rough mixes of the demos and the two decided to collaborate to finish writing the songs,[7] leaving Eno and Peter Chilvers[8] to convert a variety of digital music formats into Musical Instrument Digital Interface to strip out information and make them suitable for Byrne to embellish.[9] (Chilvers would be thanked in the liner notes as “Digitial Archeologist.”)[10] The two continued to write for several months – although Byrne confessed that he was initially “terrified” at writing lyrics for the demos – and agreed that if the project wasn’t fun for both of them, they would abandon it.[4]


Byrne took a Compact Disc of the demos from Eno and spent about a year trying to write lyrics to finish the songs, attempting to balance the simple chords that Eno had written with the more complex ones that Byrne prefers.[11] Although it was uncharacteristic for Eno, many of the songs were written on acoustic guitar, with the help of Steinberg Cubase.[12] The musicians exchanged Eno’s demos with lyrics and vocal melodies completed by Byrne over e-mail until an album’s worth of material was recorded, sometime prior to June 2008,[5] a process Byrne called “very slow” and full of trepidation,[13] in part because of the strict division of labor they had between writing instrumentation and vocalization.[12] He elaborated, “In a nutshell, Brian wrote most of the music, and I composed most of the vocal melodies and lyrics, and then sang them.”[14] 

Eno considers the album “[S]omething that combines something very human and fallible and personal, with something very electronic and mathematical sometimes.” The two tried to “make that picture of the human still trying to survive in an increasingly complicated digital world… It’s quite easy to make just digital music and it’s quite easy to make just human music, but to try and make a combination is sort of, exciting, I think.”[18]

byrnetour_1.jpgWIKIPEDIA: While Byrne and Eno have done a few interviews for the album, the two are attempting to market it via word-of-mouth and Internet hype rather than a traditional marketing scheme.[40] Eno was convinced in part because of his own preferences for digital music from the iTunes Music Store[41] rather than CDs[19] as well as the success of Radiohead‘s In Rainbows from 2007. Byrne was also impressed by the band’s release strategy as a means of valuing music.[42] The duo have carefully avoided Internet leaks by not giving out promotional copies of the album to journalists, but Byrne did preview the song “One Fine Day” prior to the release by performing it with a choir of senior citizens.[15]

Byrne and Eno have both expressed their displeasure with the record industry and traditional models of marketing music, with Eno saying:

“The music industry… were selling [recorded music] quite expensively actually, that fostered a generally quite lazy attitude within record companies… Suddenly now we have a quite different situation which it seems to me, artists understand much better than record companies do… Artists know how to use it, young artists are very comfortable with starting their careers on Facebook or MySpace or something like that – and they’re way ahead of the record companies in some respects.”[41]

Byrne has outlined the relative merits of different distribution models with this one reflecting his “self-distribution byrne_eno_everything_that_happens_will_happen_today.jpgmodel” in which “the artist stands to receive the largest percentage of income from sales per unit — sales of anything. A larger percentage of fewer sales, most likely, but not always. Artists doing it for themselves can actually make more money than the massive pop star, even though the sales numbers may seem minuscule by comparison.”[43] The duo enlisted a music marketing startup companyTopspin Media[44] – to design their site, delivery options for the digital music, and promotional web widgets.[45] The company used viral marketing techniques to collect potential customers’ e-mail addresses and encourage them to post the album streaming on their blogs.[46] The approach has been lauded as a way of undermining copyright infringement.[47] MORE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *