Arcade Fire and Taylor Swift Sweep in with New No. 1s
Arcade Fire and Taylor Swift Sweep in with New No. 1s

BURNING BRIGHT

Two songs from "The Suburbs" were unveiled on NPR's "All Songs Considered" while brothers and bandmates Win and Will Butler sat for a live chat, fielding questions submitted by fans through Twitter. Another track, "Ready to Start," had its debut on alternative KNDD Seattle, while U.K. DJ Zane Lowe premiered "We Used to Wait."

The album will once again come out in North America through Merge, which has an album-by-album licensing deal with the band that gives the group a 50/50 profit share. The album will be released with eight different covers (which will be distributed randomly and not to specific retailers; none will have bonus tracks), with a deluxe version for sale only through the band's website.

"Win and Regine [Chassagne] and everyone in the band just do things on their own terms -- it's as much of a mind-set as it is a business consideration," McCaughan says. "Their personalities, attention to detail and focus on their art [says], 'We want this the way we want it to be. We're not going to go halfway and then just let someone else decide how it's going to be put out into the world.' That is a product of their personalities, and the way that they would be no matter how many records they were selling."

"They pay for everything themselves and deliver it to their licensees," says Scott Rodger, the band's manager. "That's what I deal with, and run their business on their behalf. No label will ever commission anything that they do. Their videos, their artwork, their photographs -- they pay for everything. They have complete control."

Before they got married, Win Butler and Chassagne formed Arcade Fire in 2003 in Montreal. "We had the opportunity to make 'Funeral' with Howard Bilerman in a proper studio, and we were actually able to achieve what we set out to do," Butler says. "We were very much a live band-it's in our DNA to be a live band-so when we had a certain amount of local success from being a live band we were able to very slowly fund that album."

By March 2005, however, the volume of requests -- for interviews, licensing, show offers and the general day-to-day business of being in a band -- had begun to take more time than rehearsing, touring and actually being in the band.

"They've learned over the years -- through a lot of trial and error -- what they can and can't do while still remaining the band they intend to be," says David "Boche" Viecelli, the band's booking agent since its first headlining tour in 2004. "They are bonded emotionally in ways that most bands aren't. They really operate like a family. There's a lot of trust and respect there. They're not careerist either -- they prioritize what they do and how they do it over where it gets them."

At that point, the band realized it needed some help and began assembling the team that has advised and assisted it ever since. To help steer what had grown from a local to a global phenomenon in less than a year, the band brought on Rodger, Björk's longtime manager and a member of Paul McCartney's inner circle of advisers.

"What immediately put them into a different league was the fact that they controlled their own rights from day one," Rodger says. "They very cost-effectively made their first album, and then made some strategic deals that would bring in some money for them to buy their own recording studio and be able to be self-sufficient and make their own recordings."

The band also brought on Viecelli, a Chicago-based booking agent whose company, Billions, had earned a reputation for shrewd bookings and personal artist relationships with bands like Pavement.

"It makes such a difference when you understand where this stuff comes from and why they do it, and for me-how incredibly sympathetic with how we do business here," Viecelli says. "There's a reason I'm not a fat cat William Morris agent."

After the success of "Funeral," the volume of offers to sign a major-label deal reached a deafening level. A&R people were dispatched to Montreal with unlimited expense accounts and free rein to offer the band whatever it would take to sign.

"We didn't have any money, so we were like, 'We're not going to sign with you, but if you want to buy us hotel rooms, go for it, we're not going to stop you.' But we were very upfront with their prospects," Butler says. "When anyone said, 'Leave Merge and we'll give you lots of money,' that was never tempting. It got pretty silly at the very end."