While the record industry struggles to find a new business model, many artists are forging ahead with experimental approaches to releasing their work.
Kanye West had great success with his G.O.O.D Friday series, releasing a free MP3 download every week in the months leading up to his latest album. The approach built buzz without killing demand for the final product, even though the album contained many of the same tracks. Rap artists like Swizz Beatz and Timbaland quickly followed suit.
Now the Flaming Lips tell Rolling Stone they are interested in Kanye’s real-time model and will be releasing a song a month.
“We’ll start in late January, though I’m not sure if we’ll get together exactly by then,” front man Wanye Coyne said, adding that the band will convene in Oklahoma with longtime producer Dave Fridmann. “With this new thing, we’re going to spend a lot of time recording at our houses or wherever we are at. We’ll try to release a song a month and document the song in the making, whether it takes us three or five days or a week. It’s gonna be, ‘We’re working on a song and it’s gonna be up by Friday.’ We just want to [release material] some other way.”
The smart artists understand that the web is now a real-time place where a constant stream of activity is required to connect with fans. The Flaming Lips’ approach–not only releasing songs on a regular basis but also documenting the process on video–is similar to the way NYC startup Kickstarter attracts funding by giving fans access to an ongoing process.
Because music is so easy to pirate, its difficult to convince people to pay for it. The ongoing release model is one way to hold people’s interest. The music then become a way to earn a living by selling other products.
“The dilemma is whether we’re going to release it on vinyl, cereal boxes or some of it on toys that we make,” Coyne says, explaining that the band is planning on offering additional items to fans at the same time as downloads. “Sometimes, the music is the simplest part of any of these things. We’ll be making these little videos that connect in the end to a bigger movie we’ll be making next year as well. It sounds like a bunch of fuckin’ work, but it’s different way of thinking about songs than just holing up.”
Some albums, like the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, are a document that represents a period in time. The Lips are doing the same thing, but they are presenting it in real time, and making music just one part of the equation.
bpopper at observer dot com – @benpopper