Monday, November 05, 2007

Rare As Tardust?

So today was the first time I participated in one of these new-fangled digital pricing experiments. Well, beyond signing up to eMusic, which I found to be an intriguing yet frustrating beast.

It's been easy for a few years to pay a set amount of money directly to an artist for the pleasure of listening to his music. You can so so at the merch stand at gigs, or through myspace, or you can pay his scally friends for a rip-off version (the Happy Mondays business model).

What we're seeing now are the firs attempts from artists to ask how much we want them to make a living from recorded music, as opposed to gigs and whatnot. So first we had Radiohead asking fans too pay what they felt like for their new album "In Rainbows" (subject to the credit card minimum). Word is they've done OK, if not spectacularly, from the venture. The band is likely to release the stupid thing as a CD anyway.

Which brings me back to my college days. My little friends waited till midnight outside the HMV in Oxford for the release of Radiohead's "Ok computer," and I joined them because that took care of most of my college's alcoholic contingent. I went in at midnight... and bought Spiritualized's "Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space" instead. I don't regret it one bit. That album has made me cry a few times, while hearing Karma Police again tends to make me irritable.

I got to repeat the contrary behaviour this week, when K-Pax actor Saul Williams released his new album "Niggy Tardust" either for free (low-res mp3s) or for $5 for the high-def ones. I paid the $5 cos I'm about to drop $10 for a much more fleeting exposure to Weedeater in an hour. Plus, I like Saul Williams' style.

Williams' experiment probably isn't a good way to measure how honest people are. The album's producer is one Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails fame, and quite a few people have been confused enough to give it a listen on that basis. Plus, Williams is a bit of an acquired taste, if rather good live.

The album's reasonably accessible, even including a cover of U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday, and some snippets of Public Enemy and reggae. It might make people go back and pay up for the higher-quality ones, though I suspect that Williams won't entirely get the listeners he expected. Still, it's a worthy, and interesting, listen. We'll have to see whether they end up shopping it to a label anyway.


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