Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Soup of the day

If nothing else, running a big band teaches you to think about twenty-five things at once (your mileage may vary, of course).

One of the things I am thinking about right now (in addition to thinking about the upcoming tour, and also thinking about what I'm going to have for lunch) is this:

How exactly am I going to release the next record?

I have pondered a variation of this issue before, of course, but this time out, I'm not so concerned with the optimum media / packaging for the release.

I'm concerned with the possibility that maybe there ain't no such thing!

Peter Kirn, in responding to a pretty awesome Wired article on the many ways musicians are diversifying the things they produce (bringing real creativity into the "product" side of the music business), has this to say:

From soup cans to music boxes to iPhone apps, there are a few underlying trends in there. One is experimentation in the delivery mechanism itself (including 8-tracks and cassettes, really). The other is in what you can do with the media, as with the interactive remixable iTunes album, or even art books that extend what an album actually is.

As these spread, though, I have to optimistically think that this is more than desperation or brief novelty. Distribution media haven’t just shifted from one popular form to another; they’ve imploded. We’re rapidly approaching a “minority majority” situation in which no one format dominates the others. We haven’t gone from the compact cassette to the CD to the MP3. We’ve gone from the CD to MP3s, MP4s, lossless files for aficionados and lossy streams for kids who love on-demand, vintage formats, physical media and art books and software. Instead of being strange anomalies, these other formats may actually be the new normal. I think in a way the business model doesn’t matter, because, let’s face it, a lot of art making is about losing money. What drives artists is loving sharing the thing they’re making, and finding someone who wants to love it, too. Some people will make a great business model around that, while others won’t.

But if you’re a music lover, we could be facing a new golden age.

Well, this is just awesome. Am I crazy to think these remarks hint at the possibility of a true musical pluralism (aka "minority majority")? Am I crazy to think that worrying about selling the packaging -- which is the basic problem the folks on the Wired list are trying to solve, since nowadays the music itself is always already free, for all intents and purposes -- am I crazy to think that that is better (and less artistically harmful) than worrying about selling the music?

No, I am not. In the past, with (almost) each new technological development, the music industry has been able to respond with the PR spin of "here is the new standard." And for the most part, everyone had to fall in line if they wanted to compete. (And when it comes to art, what's more problematic than falling in line?)

Now (or soon), you make the music you want to make, come up with as many ways to package it as you can think of (at a whole range of price points), put it out there, and voila! You're off to the races!

Well, okay, maybe it's not that easy (or even that new), but it is exciting.

Now, three questions: what weird or interesting ways would you like to see the next Industrial Jazz Group album packaged? We'll definitely be putting out a straight-up CD, but I'm trying to think beyond that too: what is the IJG equivalent of a soup-can album?

And finally: what am I having for lunch?

[Photo credit: basheertome]


Jill Knapp said...

I think we should partner with Meatcards. Seriously. These guys, who are friends of friends coincidentally, have created a landslide buzz over their meatcards, by having a kick-ass ridiculous contest where people must imitate live versions of Frank Frazetta paintings. I mean COME ON!

If we offer our album with some kind of artwork etched on motherfucking MEAT with made by motherfucking LASERS, we will win at life.


(This post brought to you by the swed-ish word for music: musjx.

Anonymous said...

Can the meatcards be made with frog meat?

Trier Music said...

Nice, I was just about to write something similar about how my huge CD tower is obsolete because it can't "hold" digital media...And if future "albums" can be any shape or size, where will we keep them? (in the pantry?)

As for meatcard - how about a saran-wrapped IJG CD stuck inside the meat? Brilliant!

Jim said...

Funny. A friend told me the other day that he met a new girl and she came over to his place to hang out. They were sitting in his living room surrounded by his hundreds of CDs neatly resting on his towers and she, 22, ask him, "WHY do you have so many CDs? Don't you have a computer?" My friend said that he had never felt old before that moment. He's 28.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those peeps who has never purchased music via download. Strange, yes, I still prefer to have the cd and its artwork, and the safety of knowing that should my multiple hard drives ever wipe out simultaneously, I have the original data resting comfortably on a nearby shelf.

My friends once sold cds at a show which were, indeed, saran-wrapped and inserted into ham sandwiches, then topped with a lit birthday candle and sold for 25 cents. They were quite popular.

I love the meat cards. Perhaps diy-able? Funny, I'd originally read this post right after I finished making a set of IJG cards. A slightly time-consuming project, I only made 20.