Since 2011, the San Francisco electronic duo The M Machine has released a steady stream of upbeat, dance-friendly EPs. This coming February, they will drop their first official album, Glare, and if you’re looking to hear the album sooner, you’re in luck.
The band has created an inventive smartphone-only website called glare.fm that gives users an early listen of the album, but there’s a catch. In order to hear the whole album, another user has to share it with you and they also have to be geographically close to you.
We spoke with The M Machine to learn more about the website, its pros and cons, and the other kooky and creative things that the band has done with previous releases.
If you’re too lazy to navigate the website, but still want to hear the music, listen to “Voyeur” below.
SF Weekly: Where did the idea to create the phone-only website glare.fm come from and why did you decide to release your album through it?
The M Machine: It took us a really long time to finish this album. In fact, we started it with three bandmates and finished it with two. But Andy [Coenen] — who left to pursue software development — was ready to work on a big project with us by the time we put the finishing touches on Glare.
Our idea was to develop a tool that would allow people to share the album for free in the months leading up to a traditional release — with the caveat that each share should happen in person, over a conversation.
SFW: How exactly does it work?
TMM: Glare.fm is a web app that anyone can access from a mobile browser like Safari or Chrome (no download, no app to install). You can create an account there anytime by logging in with either Facebook or Google — but the album will remain hidden until someone who’s already gained access, grants it to you.
In order to share with someone, both people need to be on glare.fm and near one another — that is, physically together (or geographically, anyway). When a share is requested, glare.fm will check if both users are close to each other using GPS, and then unlock four songs for the new user. Each subsequent share unlocks two more songs, which means four shares are required to access the whole album.
SFW: Sounds tricky. What are the cons to using glare.fm?
TMM: Making the software easy to understand. Everyday, people optimize and rethink websites and apps so that users have a straight-forward experience. And, generally speaking, the biggest obstacle there, is a user’s expectations — something we believe we’re challenging with glare.fm.
It’s a simple goal to try and encourage your listeners to be together, in the same room, talking about your album when they share it with one another. And yet, it has become a rare phenomenon. Anonymous links and social media spam dominate the spread of music — to a negative effect in the mind of this band.
SFW: So what do you hope to achieve from using glare.fm?
TMM: We want to create the nest egg of supporters who worked a little harder to hear our music, but who subsequently have more invested. As of right now, the entire listener-ship of Glare is made up of individuals who spent time with one another talking about the album. They have access to a map that shows them where other listeners are around the world, and a living visual network of each person they shared it with, who those people shared it with, and so on down the line, giving each user a super real perspective of their personal influence.
SFW: Have you released previous albums in unorthodox ways, as well?
TMM: Sure. We wrote and illustrated (with help from some wonderful artists) a sci-fi short story for our first two EPs, Metropolis Pt. I and Pt. II. Each song corresponds to a chapter, all of which was heavily inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 epic, Metropolis.
We also built a website for the the Metropolis Remixed album where our fans hunted codes, passwords, and hidden keys to hear the remixes prior to release.