The strategy that the Fader label is using with Brooklyn indie-pop duo Matt & Kim can almost be summed up by glancing at two pictures in label president Jon Cohen's office.
The first is of Bruce Springsteen, obviously now considered one of the greatest rock musicians in history. When he started, though, Springsteen was a critical success and a commercial letdown -- but his label supported him, allowing him to develop as an artist before he eventually recorded "Born to Run." The second, a poster of track legend Steve Prefontaine, speaks to a level of confidence, a desire to be forward-thinking, and the ability to cover long distances at a breakneck pace.
Matt & Kim, while not yet in the Springsteen stratosphere, embody a progressive artist-development tale. Formed in 2004, the pair -- keyboardist/vocalist Matt Johnson and drummer Kim Schifino -- released a self-titled album on nascent indie iheartcomix in 2006, winning some acclaim but selling slowly, eventually reaching 20,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But Cohen, who founded music marketing agency Cornerstone, which is associated with the Fader, saw something promising in the act and signed it to a profit-sharing partnership.
The band developed a fierce live reputation, spending up to 250 days per year on the road and inspiring crowd-surfing wherever it went. Matt & Kim hopped between cities and gleefully presented themselves to even the most jaded indie rock crowds. It all paid off, as their second album, "Grand," has sold 100,000 copies and earned them synchs with Bacardi and a deal to have their songs appear in Electronic Arts videogames. Now, as they prepare to release "Sidewalks" on the Fader on Nov. 2, the band is prepared to break even further.
One of the biggest goals is radio airplay, which Cohen says is going well so far. At alternative WWCD Columbus, Ohio (CD101), "'Cameras' has been the No. 1 most-requested song since they started playing it," Cohen says. "We have 10 stations onboard and all the early signs are great."
The band also worked with an outside producer for the first time -- a big step for the resolutely DIY act. "At first we were resistant to it [because] we were just so used to taking care of things ourselves," Johnson says. Schifino also ceded control of the band's online marketing and Web presence to Cornerstone, although Cohen says she still has input and decisions are made in a collaborative fashion.
"Cornerstone provides our usual marketing services to the label, just like we would for outside clients," Cohen says. "And our staff, right down to our college reps, know Matt & Kim really well. They have direct contact with everyone who is working on this record."
Matt & Kim will continue to seek licensing opportunities, and while Cohen says nothing has been confirmed for new tracks, he says they're working on deals in other territories, including Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe. And just as they always have, Matt & Kim will keep touring extensively.
"I think we just kill at shows where people haven't really heard of us," Johnson says. "We play simple enough music where we say, 'Here's the beat, here's the melody, there's no other bullshit' -- and we seem to take people away with us."