Tuesday March 25th marked the release of the new album, "Consolers of the Lonely," by the Raconteurs. This is one of the best album that I have heard in a while. Before getting to the actual review of the album (which will be my next post) let me explain a bit about how it was released; almost by TOTAL SURPRISE!
The typical model in the music industry necessitates several months between the completion of an album and it reaching record stores and listeners. This is the average amount of time it takes Record Companies to organize the cover art, packaging, tour schedules, marketing and press releases for the completed product. In some cases it even takes years and a different record company for the album to finally become available (ie. Wilco's landmark "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"). This is all about to change.
For the second album by the Raconteurs this entire process took only 3 weeks. Overachievers? ADHD? Maybe, but that says nothing about the fact that the album's finished mix was completed earlier this month, the announcement of it's release came via Myspace on March 17th, and the album was in stores Yesterday. What does all this mean? It means that entire business model of bloated Major Label Recording Companies might soon be a thing of the past.
In an online article from one of Britain's leading music magazines, NME, the President of XL Recordings, Ben Beardsley, was asked about accelerated time period of the delivery of this album. His response was that a week was the minimum amount of time needed for record stores to order and stock the disc for it's March 25th release. He went on to mention that the band had wanted the album to be in stores with no advance notice at all. Some consumers have chalked all this up to a marketing ploy. I cannot help but laugh at the idea that this is bigger news now as a result of the Raconteurs trying to avoid releasing any news entirely.
Other speculation, both in the industry and online, is that this rush method was a response to the frequent internet album leaks that occur as a result of delayed release dates. The reasoning behind this is that the Raconteurs are a band of enough fame to potentially lose money as a result of listeners downloading the album early. The band has publicly responded by saying that combating leaks was involved, but only in trying to cut down on the number of degraded-quality copies floating around. If it sounds hard to believe that a band of such notoriety (the members include Jack White of the White Stripes, Brendan Benson of solo fame, and Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler who made up the rhythm section of the band The Greenhornes) would do this for anything but financial reasons, consider this: LISTEN to the album.
If you buy the album, or find a high-quality copy online, I am confident that you will realize that this is a band that is obsessed with sound and production, and that it should be no stretch to believe that the release corresponded to quality and not money issues. Another thing to consider is that delivering the album to stores earlier does nothing to limit the overall number of copies that circulate on the internet. As the music industry struggles to deal with this fact there are a another major warning sign as to a new model of artist/ consumer relations and album delivery.
Radiohead released their latest album "In Rainbows" on their website via a digital download that allowed people to fill in any purchase price from nothing to 200 euros. This particular album was available in this format for a month and didn't finally appear in stores until a month and a half after the initial online release. While Radiohead is the exception at this point, due to there massive fan base, it brings up some interesting questions about how soon after completion that consumers receive the album, in what it will appear, and how much it will cost.