The new kid on the music supervision block doesn't invite writers to the coolest new nightspot. Or the buzziest new restaurant. He requests hang time at a candy store. But given his age (he recently celebrated his 19th birthday), that's probably better than flashing a fake ID and sneaking into a bar.
If it's hip to be cynical (particularly in regard to the arts), then Feldman is an anti-hipster-or at least the self-loathing kind. "Hipsters are way too rude to have these indie artists all for themselves," he says. "They shouldn't be allowed to have this music all for themselves. To an extent, it's about knowing the greatest band. But then it's about letting everyone else know about the greatest band." He exhibits an unaffected attitude about taking the most under-the-radar of artists-like 3D Friends (aka Austin's Daniel Chavez-Wright), who is behind the "Skins" U.S. theme song after winning an OurStage competition for unsigned artists-and throwing them on MTV's sexiest show.
Is there an official soundtrack down the road?
Oh, yeah! We're in discussions with various parties, and you can rest assured that there will be many different kinds of music represented on a "Skins" U.S. soundtrack. We are very interested in getting as much of this music out in as many ways as possible. Right now, we're giving out free downloads every week and we're starting to feature each episode's playlist, as well as artist profiles, on the official "Skins" website [Skins.tv].
Only three episodes of the U.S. "Skins" serieshave aired so far, but it seems like there's music playing in every single scene, almost continually. How do you keep up?
It's like 22 songs an episode. I have friends who show me music, but I work solely with Bryan. The only music in the show that I don't choose is something that Bryan says we include -- it's his show. An instance of that would be all the soul music you hear [in episode two], which is totally Bryan's idea. In the British version, every once in a while, a really old song pops up, and that's his DJ'ing, so to speak.
On Jan. 17, MTV premiered its first episode of the U.S. version of "Skins." The story arc: A group of sexed-up high schoolers sink a stolen car in a mad dash to get their overdosed friend to the emergency room. The initial episode drew 3.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen, which promptly dropped off by 50% for its second installment. Meanwhile, MTV remains strong on the show, pushing "Skins" hard in its 2011-12 Ad Upfront (according to the Hollywood Reporter), despite some big-name advertisers dropping out and concerns from the Parents Television Council in regard to child pornography laws that may or may not have been violated.
But controversy and ratings aside, 1.3 million sets of ears are the most that the small-fry artists that Feldman likes to feature have ever reached. Tracks featured in episode one of the U.S. "Skins" series experienced a boost in sales the week of the telecast: Sales of "When I'm Small" by electro-ambient duo Phantogram (Barsuk Records) rose 344%, while sales for "My Girls," the 2009 single from freak-folk mainstay Animal Collective (Domino), increased by 201%, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Number-wise, the gains are in the high hundreds and low thousands, but it could be an option to explore for artists looking for initial breakout exposure and a small synch fee of typically no more than $600.
Since the show premiered, Feldman has received a flurry of e-mails, SoundCloud messages and tweets from artists hoping for placements. "It hasn't gotten to an overwhelming point, but it's definitely starting to get to the point where every day I wake up and there are more and more messages, some even through my own artist SoundCloud account," says Feldman, who sings and plays piano in a duo called Otis & Love. "I've actually found some really cool stuff through people reaching out."
Feldman seems very self-possessed for someone not yet 20: "I just hope this show exposes kids who are 15, 16 or 17 and getting into different types of music to awesome sounds that they would've had to dig for online otherwise," says the man whose Twitter bio includes the phrase "perception-pusher." "We're spoon-feeding, and I'm happy to do it."