Tame Impala began as a bedroom recording project in one of the most remote cities on the planet. Today it is a stadium filling sensation. Tame Impala mastermind Kevin Parker is a multi-millionaire. As a live band, Tame Impala one of the world’s biggest headline acts. Kevin Parker and his band regularly sell out stadiums and headline many of the largest music festivals in the world. How did Tame Impala become an international success? How did Kevin Parker make his money? What follows is a breakdown of several key factors which paved the way to Tame Impala’s fame and fortune.
How Did Tame Impala Become Successful? The Internet
How did Tame Impala become successful? The internet! Without the internet, it is unlikely Tame Impala would have made as much of a ripple in the popular imagination.
When Kevin Parker began recording as Tame Impala, distance was against him. Based in Perth, Australia he was more than 15,000 kilometres from the global music business capital of Los Angeles and 14,470 kilometres from London. Even in his home country, he was almost 4,000 kilometres from the music industry capital Sydney. Given this distance, it was unlikely a record executive would ever have stumbled into one of the bars where Kevin Parker played in a number of local groups. This tyranny of distance may even have meant Tame Impala would never have played outside of the state of Western Australia.
Fortunately, technology came to the rescue. In late 2007 Kevin Parker began uploading music to social networking website Myspace. The classic rock sound of tracks like ‘The Sun (Fred Cherry Eclipse)’ quickly proved popular. They also caught the ear of Glen Goetze, a talent scout from major record label Universal. After flying to Sydney to audition Parker was offered a record deal with Universal subsidiary Modular in mid-2008. While Myspace has since been supplanted by Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, were it not for the humble a social media platform, Parker may still be living in a Perth sharehouse.
Practice makes perfect. Kevin Parker’s musicianship and ear for production draw praise from musical peers and fans alike. To become the celebrated musician, songwriter and producer he is today, Kevin Parker started practising young. By his own account, he wrote his first song at age seven. His father taught him guitar not long after and by 11 he was also playing the drums. He became his own producer using primitive tape recorders at age 12.
By the time Kevin Parker began Tame Impala, he had become skilled with several instruments. Like artists Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder before him, Kevin Parker’s records typically feature himself on every instrument. What instruments can Kevin Parker play? Tame Impala recordings have featured a diverse range of instrumentation including keyboards, synthesisers, piano, electric guitar, and bass. He also employs an ever-expanding array of effects pedals and skilfully employs both analogue and digital recording technology to create his music. Live, Kevin Parker has also performed with an acoustic guitar and a kazoo.
Success in Australia alone would only have taken Tame Impala so far. Kevin Parker and his live band began touring internationally very early in their career. After signing with record label Modular in 2008 Tame Impala embarked on their first international tour in March 2009. The band performed in England before making its first international festival appearance at Japan’s Summer Sonic. In 2010, Tame Impala embarked on a US tour, travelling the country as an opening act for MGMT. As their profile grew Tame Impala soon became an in-demand act on music festival circuits in the US, Europe and Japan.
Tame Impala made their first appearance at the world’s most well-known music festival Coachella Valley Festival in April 2011. A popular attraction, fans would see to it that they would return to the festival in 2013 and 2015. Likewise, they would appear at the celebrated UK festival Glastonbury in 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2019. Not only did these festival appearances implant the band in the collective conciseness of US and UK festival-goers, but also led to Tame Impala cultivating a close relationship with the festival organisers themselves.
A Strong Connection with Coachella Valley Festival
Tame Impala’s festival presence paid off. In 2019 Kevin Parker was offered the headline slot at Coachella. These headline slots are spectacles. They are usually reserved for pop superstars. Nevertheless, Tame Impala’s strong relationship with the festival and growing popularity with patrons allowed Kevin Parker an opportunity many artists only dream of.
This 2019 Coachella set was crucial to Tame Impala’s success. The elaborate light, laser and confetti show cost Kevin Parker 2.8 million dollars out of pocket despite an estimated 500,000 dollar headliner payday. Nonetheless, it convinced US concert promoters that Tame Impala was no longer an indie rock guitar band but a broadly appealing pop act that had reached headliner status.
The performance paved the way for a lucrative 20 plus date US stadium tour. “It was a $2.8 million job interview,” Kevin Parker has shared of his Coachella performance. “Hopefully, we’re hired.”
The tour – postponed at the time of writing due to the coronavirus pandemic – is big business. Over two nights at California’s Inglewood Arena in March 2020 Tame Impala sold 25,986 tickets. The shows netted the Tame Impala an estimated $1.82 million payday.
While an artist provides talent and vision, other figures behind the scenes also contribute to their success. Jodie Regan began managing another band Parker played in called Mink Mussel Creek in 2006. As a result of this close proximity, she became involved in the Tame Impala project early. She manages Tame Impala to this day.
Managers play a vital role in assisting artists in touring logistics and business affairs. They also help facilitate the creative process. Managers often have a close relationship with artists approaching that of a close friend or family member.
As an artists success grows management becomes a necessity. “A lot of things in the career of a musician aren’t very fun,” Tame Impala manager Jodie Regan explained to Music Business World in 2021. “The press and touring can get very difficult. So making sure that I’m protecting [my artists] as much as I possibly could from that and then, sustaining that so they can be creative for as long as possible by making it financially viable if I can. That was just always the way.”
Jodie Regan believes in Tame Impala. She refers to Kevin Parker as a creative genius. “Success for me is realising the value in the artists’ vision,” she shared with Music Business World, “and striving to make that vision come to fruition. And for them to be happy with the result.”
Despite outside pressure from record labels, Regan has been protective of Kevin Parker’s longstanding insistence on recording and producing his own music. If there were a person beside Kevin Parker to write a book titled How did Tame Impala become successful? it would likely be Jodie Regan.
Hip Hop Artists Love Sampling Tame Impala
Given Kevin Parker’s indie-rock roots, Tame Impala’s popularity amongst the hip hop community may seem odd at first. With hip hop led by Black American tastemakers, classic rock bands are not exactly exalted. Nevertheless, when it came to winning the hearts and minds of this large segment of music fandom, Tame Impala had a secret weapon.
Kevin Parker’s music is a treasure trove for hip hop producers looking for new and interesting sounds to sample. Within the world of hip hop Kevin Parker is famous for his drum sound. His bass lines and melodic hooks are also held in high regard. The high level of production in general also appeals to many within the hip-hop community. Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar sampled Tame Impala’s ‘Feel Like We Only Go Backwards’ in 2014. Kevin Parker has also collaborated with hip hop superstar Kanye West.
How Did Tame Impala Become Famous? Rihanna Covered ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes
A huge boost to Tame Impala’s profile came when pop’s leading woman Rihanna contacted Tame Impala in 2016. Looking for one final song to complete the 2016 album anti, Rihanna’s manager Jay Brown contacted Tame Impala asking for the audio files for Currents track ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes. A week later anti was released. Much to Kevin Parker’s surprise, Rihanna had covered the song very closely to how he had originally recorded it, albeit retitled ‘Same Ol’ Mistakes’. Many amongst Rihanna’s millions of fans loved the song. And, with a little research, they found their way to Tame Impala.
Rihanna’s cover opened another door as well. Kevin Parker became an in-demand producer and collaborator in the world of pop. Other acts who also offered early support for Tame Impala’s work were Mark Ronson and Frank Ocean. Through this celebrity endorsement, Tame Impala received a kind of promotion money simply cannot buy.
Kevin Parker Embraced Pop
At the same time pop was embracing Tame Impala, Kevin Parker was embracing pop. Set to poppier rhythm and instrumentals, Tame Impala’s 2015 album Currents struck a chord with millions the world over. Fourth Tame Impala album The Slow Rush further consolidated Kevin Parker’s success. With these two albums, Kevin Parker more readily embraced R&B, hip hop, and electronic dance music. Parker’s pop leanings also lead to collaborations with Kanye West, Travis Scott, Kali Ulchis, Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, and The Weeknd. Not only have such collaborations been creatively rewarding for Kevin Parker they have also proven an excellent form of cross-promotion.
Music in Advertisements
The use of Tame Impala songs as advertising jingles may not be the hippest claim of fame. Nonetheless, it is something that exposed the music of Kevin Parker to millions of fans and people of all walks of life. The use of Lonerism single ‘Elephant’ in a 2013 Blackberry phone commercial broadcast the thundering rhythm of Tame Impala into households across the world.
It paid well too. Parker has shared that the proceeds from the ad campaign allowed him to purchase his first home. While the payday was a welcome bonus, the exposure to fans these ads afforded gave Tame Impala another avenue of promotion money just can’t buy.
The music of Tame Impala has appeared in several other multinational advertising campaigns. InnerSpeaker track ‘The Bold Arrow of Time appeared in a 1800 Tequila commercial. Currents ‘Let It Happen’ also appeared in a 2019 advert for Ford’s Edge model CUV car. ‘The Less I Know the Better’ soundtracked 2015 Apple Watch campaign. ‘Elephant’ would again be used as a YouTube Music jingle in 2018.
How Did Tame Impala Become Successful? Cross-Genre Appeal
Tame Impala makes music for a post-genre world. As streaming platforms like YouTube and Spotify continue to replace physical album sales as the main way fans consume music, genre divisions are quickly dissolving. In 2021 we live in a world of Spotify playlists not record bins. Genre distinctions, as well as the ideological divisions like the one which separated genres like rock and pop once fascinated Generation X and Generation Y. To tech-savvy Millenials and members of Gen Z, genre divides are a distant memory.
Tame Impala’s music aligns with the genreless musical spirit of the times. While the band is often compared to the Beatles and Pink Floyd, Kevin Parker has expressed an affinity for a diverse range of acts including the Smashing Pumpkins, Korn, Kylie Minogue, Outkast, Daft Punk, Supertramp, The Strokes, Queens of the Stone Age, Portishead, Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Serge Gainsbourg, AIR, The Beach Boys, Micheal Jackson and Beyoncé to name a few. Kevin Parker’s musical approach seems simply to draw inspiration from whatever music sounds good.
A Spectacular Live Show
“How did Tame Impala become successful?” you continue to ask. Here is another reason. The live show. Tame Impala’s live set continues to improve. As Tame Impala’s fame has grown so too has its dazzling and expensive light show. Kevin Parker’s aforementioned Coachella performance featured several laser sand confetti cannons. The band’s postponed (at the time of writing) The Slow Rush tour possesses an even more elaborate setup.
What is it like to see Tame Impala live? Some fans have likened Tame Impala concerts to a hallucinogenic acid trip. Others have use words like energetic, beautiful, ethereal, and visually captivating to describe them. Many assert Tame Impala offers one of the most memorable and immersive concert experiences in modern music.
How Did Tame Impala Become Successful? Themes of Isolation Connected with a Generation
Those celebrated as geniuses are not considered so for their exceptional abilities alone. They connect with the world at large, often tapping into the collective motion of the cultures to which they belong. With tech-savvy Millennials and Gen Z being the loneliest of all generations, Kevin Parker’s distinctive personality and musical themes of isolation strike a chord. Many connected with the melancholy and introspective themes of InnerSpeaker. These were taken into even more personal depths with the critically acclaimed second Tame Impala album Lonerism and broadly appealing third album Currents.
Just as The Beatles tapped into the love-is-all-you-need mentality of the 1960s, Parker’s music speaks to the isolation and unreality of modern times. In hearing of Kevin Parker’s isolation, fans not only empathise but feel comforted that they are not alone. Others relate that after listening to Tame Impala’s music repeatedly Kevin Parker comes to feel like a friend and “personal therapist”.
Many of Tame Impala songs are deeply introspective. An honest songwriter, Kevin Parker often calls back to his troubled childhood. It could also be said that though his rigorous self-examination as well as a philosophical interest in Buddhism, he has tapped into timeless and universal themes. Kevin Parker’s life experiences and arrival into the world of music, could not have been better timed.
The Album Art
Not all factors in Tame Impala’s rise to fame have to do with canny business deals, deft promotion or wise investments of money. Evoking classic rock albums like Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Tame Impala’s singles and albums are accompanied by striking artwork. Kevin Parker has collaborated with many artists to create the mind-bending visuals that accompany his work.
For the covers of Innerspeaker and Lonerism, he worked with psychedelic artist Leif Podhajsky. Robert Beatty designed the cover of Currents and its accompanying singles. Most recently he has collaborated with photographer Neil Krug who captured imagery associated with The Slow Rush in an abandoned Namibian ghost town Kolmanskop.
A vinyl copy of Tame Impala’s fourth album The Slow Rush.
Love it or hate it video-sharing platform TikTok has introduced the music of Tame Impala to yet another generation of fans and an even larger international audience. Tame Impala’s best known single ‘The Less I Know the Better’ went viral on the platform in 2019. This had no minor impact on the song’s success. After going viral the song’s streaming numbers skyrocketed. Kevin Parker later announced the single had jumped from Gold to Double Platinum status in the US as a result.
How Did Tame Impala Become Successful? A Winning Mindset
Kevin Parker is not in for the money. “I believe that if you do something good, make good art or make good stuff,” Kevin Parker once informed UK radio station BBC 6. “The wealth will find you in some way.”
Tame Impala’s lyrics also shed light on Parker’s dedication to his art. “I did it for love,” he sings on the fourth album The Slow Rush’s closing track ‘One More Hour‘. “I did it for fun, couldn’t get enough, I did it for fame, but never for money.”
Kevin Parker also pushes past previous creative achievements. No two Tame Impala albums are alike. Like Kevin Parker’s recordings, Tame Impala concerts have also continued to evolve.
Since the beginning of Tame Impala, Kevin Parker has written, recorded and produced the majority of his own material. Many regard him as a creative genius. Tame Impala is his vision. Kevin Parker is insistent on retaining creative control. Seldom has an official Tame Impala release involved other producers and co-writers. (Producer Dave Fridmann and Tame Impala’s Jay Watson are both rare exceptions.)
Kevin Parker’s label and even live bandmates are often in the dark until he delivers a completed album. This low-level of outside interference ensures Kevin Parker can make the kind of music that is true to his creative ideals. This makes the music of Tame Impala distinct from many pop and hip hop contemporaries who frequently employ producers and multiple songwriters to ensure commercial success.
One could not ponder the question “How did Tame Impala become successful?” without a passing reference to Kevin Parker’s use of drugs. Could a connection be made between the drug happy environment of music festival culture and Tame Impala’s dazzling light shows, lysergic music and presence at such music festivals? Tame Impala’s biggest fan base is in the US. The legalisation and decriminalisation of recreational cannabis in more than 25 US states over the last decade coincides with Tame Impala’s own rise to popularity.
Kevin Parker himself has admitted to smoking marijuana, ingesting magic mushrooms and taking acid to aid the creative process. “I smoke a bit when I’m recording,” Kevin Parker revealed to GQ Australia in 2015. “If I’m fleshing out a song, smoking weed can make it more potent – like turning up the volume of the ideas in your head. But you’re just as likely to turn up a bad idea, as a good one, so I don’t smoke it if I want to think rationally. There’s also a lot of drinking.”
Kevin Parker does not advocate drug use. Despite his assertion he finds drug useful he has made clear he does not encourage others to take them. With this in mind, it will be left to the individual fan to determine whether drugs enhance or hinder human potential.
Animal Names are Easy to Remember
How did Tame Impala get its name? Shortly after he had started his recording project Kevin Parker decided he wanted a name that sounded psychedelic. After some consideration, he arrived at the alias of Tame Impala. Kevin Parker’s mother and father were both of African heritage. An Impala is an African animal and as such, it pays homage to Parker and his parents’ cultural roots.
Kevin Parker may not have realised it but this was a very canny decision. Evolutionarily speaking humankind has not changed for 135,000 years. While we live in a world dominated by technology, mentally we are still biologically adapted for living in small tribes as hunter-gatherers. This leads to a lingering fascination with animals. An unintentional effect of Kevin Parker’s use of the Tame Impala name is that it sticks. And what is more, it is just plain fun for people to say.
One can launch into a long talk on Kevin Parker’s musical ability and Tame Impala’s grand creative vision but sometimes it is the small things that make a difference. Especially when talking about the teenagers who comprise music’s tastemaking audience. From the Beatles to Doja Cat, popular music is littered with animal names. Consider it.
How Did Tame Impala Become Successful?
In the fly-by-night world of modern music, Tame Impala has remained an enduring presence. Fortuitous circumstances, musical mastery, smart business moves and good old fashioned hard work have all contributed to Kevin Parker’s rise to fame. Integral to this success has been Kevin Parker’s ability to connect with others, both as a songwriter and inside of the music industry. Looking at the matter more broadly, people, as ever, are looking for an artist who can articulate the pressures of modern life. And, perhaps, to tap into something even deeper. Kevin Parker meets this need. As an artist should, he inspires belief in those around him. Fans also want to be entertained. In both regards, Tame Impala rarely fails to disappoint.
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