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The Times They Are A-Changin’

March 20, 2008

We live in an exciting era for the domain of independent music. The internet has always been an incredible medium, and it has brought us a lot of music, and made its availability much quicker, illegally or not. It has made possible an unprecedented directness between the artist and the audience. Just think about Wilco’s 2001 release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: initially dismissed by the suits at Reprise Records, YHF eventually became an indie rock smash and Wilco’s most successful album financially and critically, all because they posted the album free on their website and let the fans decide, gaining them huge industry leverage. (For a more complete and insightful summary, click here).

There has been the Wilco story, and countless others of the internet helping independent rock fans triumph over the many bureaucratic snags of the industry. But, still, all the while, haven’t we all been twiddling our thumbs and waiting, wondering when a truly fundamental change will take place? Well, recent developments in the music biz seem to be taking as close to said change as we’ve ever been. This past Tuesday, Gnarls Barkley decided quite spontaneously to release their new album The Odd Couple three weeks prematurely. The duo’s promotional middlemen offered many a reason for this release date change, but it seems obvious that the true reason was that the completed album had leaked and was spreading among anxious listeners faster than March Madness. Illegal, sure, but piracy has allowed dedicated listeners to forgo many an obnoxious marketing ploy and get right to the music.

Much in the same vain, Jack White and Brendan Benson’s semi-all star, Detroit based rockers The Raconteurs announced this Monday the release of their new LP, Consolers of The Lonely, only eight days later. This essentially piracy-enforced policy of cutting down so drastically the gap between information about an album’s release and its actual release is a huge victory for the more passionate listener and certainly the more indie-centric listener. Bands with the ability to spread their music through word-of-mouth and other old-fashioned and less glitzy, obnoxious modes are being allowed to do so, because the internet has proved finally a consumer base for them. Call it the In Rainbows sensation, or whatever else you may, but this ongoing shift seems too momentous to go away.

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