Times change, but Deryck Whibley says bands face same challenges

Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley says that social media may be something bands can use to promote themselves, but it's still a challenge for musicians to catch the public's eye.

'It's 4 years to become an overnight success,' Sum 41 frontman tells CBC News

Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley is seen talking to CBC News in Ajax, Ont., on June 20, 2014. (CBC)

Some people may be too young to remember the era of VHS tapes, but Deryck Whibley says they were a valuable tool that Sum 41 used to promote itself in the band's early days.

"Before Twitter and before YouTube and all that kind of stuff, we did those kinds of things, those viral-type videos of us doing stupid stuff all the time," Whibley told CBC News in an interview, during a recent trip home to visit family in Ajax, Ont.

Back then, their record company paid for the manufacture of the video tapes, which they would hand out at shows.

Indeed, when Rolling Stone published a profile on the band in 2001, the magazine reported that the guys in Sum 41 had been told to enjoy themselves, but they were also supposed to keep the camera rolling.

"We just had to go out and do all the work of handing it out and that’s how we spread our name," Whibley said.

Deryck Whibley recently spoke to CBC News from the kitchen of his mother and stepfather's home in Ajax, Ont. (Geoff Nixon/CBC)

The way Whibley sees it, the process is a little different today, but the challenge is the same.

"You got to make somewhat of a splash, you've got to grab people's attention somehow. I don't care what it is, but you’ve got to have a story behind you," said Whibley.

"You can’t just be, like: 'Hey, listen to my music, it's so good.' There’s 1,000 other great songs out there, too. So how do you stand out?"

Whibley thinks it’s actually harder for bands to get their name out there now, as there is less money available for artists nowadays.

"People have some great ideas, but we'll never even know about them because there's just not enough money," he said. "The kind of money we were spending, of the record company's money, in those early days, you would never get that these days."

Whibley said he's heard people point to YouTube, Twitter and other social media tools as making it easier for bands to promote themselves.

But he said that while social media may allow a person to publish material from their home computer, it doesn't mean that people will read it, watch it or listen to it.

"Those are things that you have to want to go to, to see the band… You [have to] want to know what somebody's tweeting about," he said. "They have to find it, whereas when we were starting out doing that, we were just shoving it in people's faces."

Whibley and his Sum 41 bandmates rose to fame when they were barely out of high school. They went on to sell millions of records and tour the world.

While some might think they had a quick road to success, Whibley points out it didn't happen instantaneously.

"It's four years to become an overnight success," he said.

Whibley, who was previously married to Canadian-born pop star Avril Lavigne, also spoke to CBC News about how long-time alcohol use put his life in jeopardy and sent him to hospital.