Within the past week, several things have become clear in the ever-tumultuous world of music and media. The most buzzed of these is that Steve Jobs or, more likely, some petty Apple disciple with the desire to make his mark on the music world, has a god complex.
On March 17, Jack White?s side project the Raconteurs announced the surprise release of their new album Consolers of the Lonely. The album, which was to be available in all formats in one week?s time, garnered no media hype or commentary prior to this declaration. The purpose of this sudden release? ?To get this record to fans, the press, radio, etc., all at the exact same time so that no one has an upper hand on anyone else regarding its availability, reception or perception.?
And with no advance copies floating about the media, this goal seemed a realistic one. That is until last Friday, when someone at Apple decided the album should have its own exclusive and brief iTunes presale. This lapse of judgment ensured the Raconteurs? original hopes for a widespread, spontaneous release would not become reality. However, whatever the intent of Apple?s actions, the leak of Consolers of the Lonely has flooded the Raconteurs with unparalleled media attention and will continue to yield beneficial results in the future.
Since Radiohead?s experimental online donation release in October, musicians have been attempting to match the success of the indie juggernaut by inventing their own unique release strategies. The most recent venture into this new trend of experimental releases occurred with the successful and largely profitable release of Nine Inch Nails? Ghosts I-IV. Following a mysterious news update on their website titled ?2 weeks,? the band released a 36-track instrumental album March 2. This previously unmentioned album was made available in several different formats, including a free nine-track download, a five-dollar full-album digital download, a $10 CD set with immediate album download, a $75 deluxe edition set and a limited run of 2,500 ultra-deluxe packages. These ultra-deluxe packages, priced at a whopping $300 apiece, sold out within three days, raking in $750,000 for Reznor and company. Talk about a successful release strategy.
Also entering this ring of experimental releases is Gnarls Barkley, who, in an unprecedented action, moved up their sophomore album The Odd Couple from April 8 to an immediate digital release last Tuesday and a disc release for today. However, the success of this tactic is yet to be seen.
While both Ghosts I-IV and The Odd Couple have received an inordinate amount of press coverage due to their unconventional release, it is the Raconteurs? failed attempt to follow this model that has and will continue to propel the release of Consolers of the Lonely to a much higher level of media coverage. NIN may have sold more than a million dollars? worth of their Ghosts I-IV release in its first week, but the buzz that surrounded this album was short-lived, and the story was soon neglected. The Raconteurs, however, with a plethora of prerelease controversy to spark blog discussion, have already experienced more media coverage in the week leading up to their album release than NIN had in the three-week period following the release of Ghosts I-IV.
Accompanying the buzz surrounding iTunes? leak of Consolers of the Lonely, the album continues to monopolize conversation due to Internet watchdog company Web Sheriff. On many blogs discussing the leak of Consolers of the Lonely, Web Sheriff, which acts on behalf of client copyright holders, has made its presence known, thanking bloggers for plugging the Raconteurs? ?pioneering? release without the addition of download links. This action seems harmless, but to a minority of melodramatic members of the blog community, Web Sheriff?s presence has been seen as a menacing interruption to regular blog traffic. And so, with comments revolving around the involvement of this anti-piracy group, the buzz surrounding the Raconteurs? impending original release date only continues to grow.
According to the music-related blog tracker The Hype Machine, the Raconteurs are currently the most blogged-about artist on the Internet. With today?s official release of Consolers of the Lonely, the Raconteurs will continue to see large amounts of media coverage as album reviews and discussion of the release?s success will continue to dominate music blogs and websites in the coming weeks. So, while the iTunes leak of Consolers of the Lonely may have disrupted the Raconteurs? initial plans of an unbiased album release, Steve Jobs and his fellow comrades at Apple may in fact be viral marketing?s newest savvy saviors. As for me, I?ll stay true to the band?s intentions. Shielding my eyes from my daily music-related reads, I will take my first unbiased listen sometime today and tell you all about it on Thursday.
Blake Rhiner ([email protected]) is a freshman intending to major in journalism.