NEFFEX (Left to right) Bryce Savage and Cameron Wales
Photo by Jonathan Weiner
While tomorrow’s release of the new EP Q203 on 12 Tone Music technically marks their first official label release, L.A. indie duo NEFFEX has been quietly going about changing the way music is released and distributed since forming in 2014.
Bryce Savage and Cameron Wales met in a high school punk band and have made music together since.
Dabbling in everything from rock to hip-hop, EDM and more, the duo’s impossible to pigeonhole sound is a reflection of the way music is consumed today in a streaming era where genre matters less than ever before.
“I don’t want to admit this but Limewire was pretty big,” said Wales, citing the file sharing service as one of the biggest reasons for the vast array of early influences that’s manifesting itself in the music NEFFEX makes today.
“As kids, we were exposed to all of these different sounds which I think just leads to us creating diverse music that bounces all around. There’s no limitations,” added Savage. “And you’re hearing it more and more nowadays, where there’s just so many genres out there that they all start to blend together and people can almost do everything. We think that’s a really cool development in music and something that we want to be a part of.”
Savage and Wales went to great lengths to hone their sound, organically building an audience and an income over the course of a series of song releases that eventually grew in scope to encompass 100 songs in 100 weeks.
Following experimental release and promotion in a variety of different forms that utilized things like Facebook ads and Soundcloud repost networks, the duo eventually seized upon YouTube as the single most important way to grow their brand, joining an increasing number of artists throwing conventional wisdom to the wind in experimenting with copyright free release of their music.
“We never knew that we were going to do 100 songs in 100 weeks. We started off just saying, ‘Let’s just be consistent. Let’s come out with a song every single Wednesday and let’s email people. Let’s put in the hard work and let people know what we’re doing and that we’re making it copyright free so content creators can use it,’” Savage explained. “Giving to people ended up returning back more than we could’ve ever imagined. So it was really cool.”
Savage and Wales identified an underserved audience of music lovers in YouTube’s content creator community. Music song rights have historically been incredibly difficult to secure. YouTubers often use licensed music in the videos they create anyway, which can quickly result in tersely worded cease and desist letters from major label litigators.
NEFFEX released their 100 songs in 100 weeks copyright free, encouraging the YouTube community to use it royalty free in their creations. It was a virtual instant success as the duo grew their YouTube channel to over 2 million subscribers in a little over two years.
“The reason that we released it copyright free was because there’s that theory that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you just need to improve upon it. Our whole thing was we saw NoCopyrightSounds doing really well by releasing stuff copyright free,” said Savage of the pioneering British EDM label who’s released copyright free music since 2017. “There were all these content creators getting copyright strikes on their channels and getting their channels taken down and only because of the music on it. They’re creating this amazing content but the music is what’s getting them in trouble. NoCopyrightSounds has a lot of EDM music but Cam and I love rock music, rap music and punk music. So we just started creating whatever we wanted to create based on however we were feeling. And it just kind of went down this path where, as we started sending it to people, they loved it and wanted to use it in their stuff.”
As viewers began to discover their music in content found on YouTube, their subscriber count went up as did views on the videos posted on their own channel. Even though they forgo a royalty when their music is used elsewhere, NEFFEX is able to monetize their own YouTube channel. As they started to develop an online fanbase, the YouTube attention translated into Spotify streams as well.
As independent artists, Savage and Wales were able to maximize those streams and views. Eventually they were able to quit their jobs.
“We needed people to hear our music. So having a guy with a few hundred subscribers post our song? Hey, that’s a few hundred people that might hear our song, might like it and might go over to Spotify. We started getting people with a few thousand, then a few hundred thousand and then people in the millions started using it and it really took off for us,” said Savage. “Quitting our jobs was one of the coolest things that we’ve ever done in our entire lives. We were working nine to five and we were waking up at 5AM to finish these songs. We emailed more YouTube channels letting them know, ‘Hey, this stuff is out there. We’re making it for you guys. If you like it, use it.’ It was a really gradual growth and it really never changed. It’s just kind of steadily grown over time.”
NEFFEX – Q203 EP cover art
Courtesy of 12 Tone Music
Though streaming music online feels second nature today, it’s a form of music delivery that, historically speaking, remains in its infancy. While veteran artists often decry low royalty rates, what’s been almost universally praised is the largely transparent accounting. For up and coming artists like NEFFEX, it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship.
“We were able to live off of Spotify streams. Spotify, right off the bat, paid us. We started doing the math real quickly. It’s like, they pay you $0.003 per stream. So it’s like, ‘Ok, 3 streams equals a penny,’” said Savage. “Spotify, as the streams went along, we could literally predict – ‘Hey, if we got 2,000 streams, we made this amount of money this week.’ So we started just being able to calculate out when we would be able to quit our jobs as long as the streams kind of kept plugging away at the exact same rate. Our whole lives, everyone told us that we weren’t going to be able to make money making music – that it was kind of a lost cause. And you feel kind of blessed to live in a day and age where streaming has become so readily available and the internet has exploded. Because it really gave us an opportunity to not necessarily need a label to start out and to be entrepreneurial about it.”
Now that NEFFEX has built a motivated fanbase and successfully turned their music into profit, they’re ready to take the next career step with the release of their debut EP Q203 (October 16, 12 Tone Music).
12 Tone Music is a label built upon major record industry firepower. The independent label was founded by former Universal Music Group CEO, Sony Music Entertainment Chairman and VEVO founder Doug Morris.
For NEFFEX, the idea behind finally partnering with a label is to take what they’ve already built to the next level in terms of merchandising, greater distribution, touring and potential endorsements.
“A lot of labels didn’t know what to do with us. They heard our music and were like, ‘What genre are you?’ Are you pop? Are you rock? Are you hip-hop? What are you doing?’ But Steve Bartels sat down and was like, ‘We don’t want to change you guys at all. We just want to amplify what it is that you’re doing,’” said Savage of the duo’s introduction to the former Def Jam CEO. “As we met the rest of the team and everyone at 12 Tone, we were like, ‘You know what, we would rather have a more independent label that really focuses on us and cares about us and understands the sound as opposed to possibly having a major that doesn’t quite understand what we’re doing or what we’re going for or that tries to put us in a box.’ So they just seemed like the perfect fit for us at this time.”
100 songs in 100 weeks doubled in a way as NEFFEX’s version of the 10,000 hours theory. It gave the pair the rare ability to hone their sound and perfect their craft on their own terms.
Q203 is an EP that builds on that, putting on full display the diverse influences that define NEFFEX’s artistic palette. “Want Me” features a ripping guitar solo while “Without You” skews more toward rap. “Sunday,” however, is drenched in saccharine sweet pop.
While there’s often the assumption that a label steps in and dictates the creative process, Savage is quick to assert that he and Wales recorded the entire EP in their apartment, played the instruments on it, sang every word and produced, mixed and mastered it themselves.
“That was such a gradual grind for us. It was probably about two and a half years that we had that channel,” said Wales of the group’s journey from crafting songs in their apartment (unit number Q203) to creating the new EP.
“Cam and I got together and it was such an entrepreneurial venture. The songs were so important to us during that time. We were basically telling our story of our grind as we were going,” said Savage of the group’s earliest days. “The whole thing is it’s quality over quantity now. At some point, you need a song to penetrate so deep in the market that millions upon millions of people are hearing it. And then, once they know that song, they can dive in and go, ‘Holy crap, these guys have 100 songs. That’s amazing!’ So the label is really there to help us set up that infrastructure to have that one hit song that gets on the radio, that’s a top 40 song, that really starts putting NEFFEX on the map for the rest of the world.”
Launching a European tour today, NEFFEX continues to prove that in a quickly changing music industry, sometimes the best road to success means paving a new one.
“Going to Europe is going to be one of the coolest experiences ever. It will be my first time there. It’s just going to be extremely exciting,” said Wales. “Q203 is kind of like the start of a new chapter or era for NEFFEX,” added Savage. “We love taking risks and developing our sound constantly. And this EP really shows off our diversity and how we like to bend genres and just kind of play with our sound all the time.”
*** The new NEFFEX EP Q203 will be released by 12 Tone Music on Wednesday, October 16, 2019 and will be available on Spotify, Apple Music and all other digital streaming platforms.
*** NEFFEX launches their European tour tonight in Zürich, Switzerland with stops through November in Germany, Netherlands, France, England and more. Click HERE for the full itinerary.