Although rush releases are nothing new, Getintothis’ Joseph Viney asks whether this is the start of something big, or just the loud shouts of a few willing rebels.
The purchase structure of Radiohead’s 2007 LP In Rainbows was manna from heaven for broadsheet music writers across the land.
Now, finally, they had a real opportunity to wax lyrical on an ‘epoch shattering’ event, a real historical turning point for artists and consumers. At last, they gleefully reported, the strict, controlling talons of the music industry and their ludicrous pricing is at an end.
They surmised that this was the end of a decaying business model, notwithstanding the irony of writing that in a printed newspaper; the new Swiss cheese of money making.
As with all revolutions, things didn’t happen immediately. It’s only over the last couple of years that we have really reaped the benefits of Radiohead’s first forays into the pay-what-you-want market. Sites like Bandcamp and SoundCloud allow lower-level bands to operate within their means and with the benefit of cutting out the many middle men that overshadow these types of things.
But things have changed yet again, and late 2013 saw two major releases sent into the wild and our ears for free, without warning and much to the chagrin of record labels.
November 13 saw the sudden appearance of Death Grips’ latest LP, the rather insane Government Plates.
Released without fanfare and accompanied by videos for each of the record’s tracks, Government Plates was unveiled in typical style by the trio that really do inhabit the term ‘noise terrorists’.
No strangers to controversy (as evidenced by their VERY NSFW cover art for No Love Deep Web), the album was another guerrilla strike by a group who have made their reputation with such events.
Government Plates is an example of the full kit and caboodle of releasing music in the internet age: sudden appearance, full multimedia experience and more questions than answers.
Inevitably, Death Grips shrugged off what could be seen as a big moment in the future by declaring Government Plates as not even an official LP, just simply a document of “where we are right now.”
Don’t do yourselves down, gents. You may have just set the ball rolling.
Angel Haze is another firebrand in the mould of Death Grips. No shame, no fear and no fucks given. This bright young thing attracted the molten ire of her record label but the eternal love of her fans by making her debut LP Dirty Gold available online three months before its due date.
Frustrated by the lack of action and forward thinking from Island Records, who had made a series of broken promises and delays, Haze spilled her guts on Twitter against them before putting all of the LP on her SoundCloud on December 18.
With their hand forced and the cat very much out of the bag, Island agreed to release Dirty Gold on December 30 via an amusingly terse statement: “Expressing frustration and upset about not being able to get her album out to fans in 2013 as previously promised, Angel Haze took matters into her own hands leaking the record via Twitter.
“Haze’s actions have forced her label’s hand who’ve since announced they will make the digital version of Dirty Gold available.”
These are just two recent examples; Prince very publicly left Warner Brothers after outing his label’s constraints concerning their ownership of his mastered recording material bearing the word ‘SLAVE’ while on tour and the BRITs. His decision led to widespread derision yet in the years that have followed he’s been labelled a trailblazer setting a blueprint for artistic ownership.
More recently, in April 2013, XL Records‘ Jai Paul‘s *long* awaited album surfaced on Bandcamp for free – only for mixed messages, mystery and denials to be spurt forward as artist and label scrambled for the upper hand. The end result: a Tweet from Jai insisting, ‘To confirm: demos on bandcamp were not uploaded by me, this is not my debut album. Please don’t buy. Statement to follow later. Thanks, Jai.‘
It’s the age-old battle between money versus art, boss versus employee and common sense versus marketing techniques. For Angel Haze and Death Grips, they’ve taken Radiohead’s mould, shattered it to pieces and created their own. It is renewal and revolution that, in this instance, has created immediate, dramatic and positive results.
But what does this mean for the wider world in general? Are we to soon bear witness to the dropping of a thousand musical bombs from out of the sky, label suits getting hot under the collar while the baying coliseum of fans lap it up and screech for more?
Perhaps not, as these are still early days and tottering first steps into a series of minor skirmishes that may develop into a full-blown war.
What do you think? Is this a new paradigm? Or are they merely incidents of minor irritants for an industry, despite their portents of doom, still very much in rude, powerful health? Whatever the case, the dynamic between an artist who wishes to express themselves versus a structure dependent on commerce will forever have the potential for explosive end results.
Further reading on Getintothis:
Parquet Courts set for Liverpool summer outing at Kazimier.
Brian Jonestown Massacre to decamp in East Village Arts Club.
Andrew WK to party hard in Liverpool’s East Village Arts Club.
Best new music – Låpsley.
We Are Catchers drop Tap Tap Tap ahead of debut on Domino Records.
Best new music – Getintothis on Abe.
Best new music – Getintothis on Etches.