Beg, steal or borrow? Thrice album leak three months ahead of schedule reveals major crack in the industry.
iTunes legal downloads. Joint touring & recording contracts. Album releases through Guitar Hero and Rock Band video games. Spotify free music streaming supported by advertising revenue. After years of struggling to adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape the music industry finally thought it was regaining some level of control, offering profitable solutions to finally quash the threat of illegal downloading.
It’s a typical Wednesday morning. Still a little giddy from Monday’s news that Thrice would be releasing their new album Beggars on October 12th, imagine my surprise to find myself with a full copy of the album only 48 hours later. Now whilst my ego would like to think I have this “Vagrant Records advance promotional stream”; as the watermark on each track reminds me, through hard earned industry connections in my journalistic career, the reality is the album has been leaked onto numerous file-sharing sites months ahead of the planned release for anyone and everyone to access.
Skipping the issue of whoever is accountable for the leak, an issue I’m sure Vagrant and Thrice will be keen to address, if nothing else, the leak of a clearly finished and mastered album, almost three months ahead of the planned release surely raises the issue, why would a finished album take three months to package and release? As much as I love Thrice and have championed their work in the past, their often experimental and progressive nature removes any chance of mainstream success, therefore eliminating the need for a huge marketing operation to propel them to the masses that still think ‘Sex On Fire’ is a really clever song. Equally as apparent, whilst marketing is no doubt vitally important to any band doing the rounds in this ultra-competitive digital-overload age we live in, Thrice are a band with such a dedicated UK and US fan base that a new album would sell to the core audience with or without additional marketing support.
So why three months? Is the industry really still that much of sadist, still that much of a bully, it has to get its kicks from denying its own audience what it wants? Surely this is why illegal downloading became such a problem in the late nineties? Maybe they still don’t get that music is not just a product they can’t tease us with. People want to hear new music from their favourite artists as soon as possible. If it’s made available in some form or another then its only human nature that people are going to right click, save as.
No doubt fingers will be pointed at the fans for file sharing, as has been so wrongly done in the past in search of an easy scapegoat (also conveniently neglecting the side benefits that may come from it) . And whilst whoever is responsible for the leak SHOULD face consequences; after all unless it turns out to be one of the greatest PR stunts in recent memory it’s unlikely it will be anyone who had any actual creative input on the album, the industry should heed this as a warning. You’ve got the fans back, don’t risk losing them again. Give them what they want, as soon as you can, and everyone’s happy.
In 2007 Radiohead successfully released In Rainbows online months ahead of its physical release. The bold move was followed by numerous releases in 2008, including Bloc Party’s third full length Intimacy released in a similar staggered fashion. Would it be too much to expect all artists to follow? Why not release the album online as soon as it’s available for the real fans, and then save all the marketing for the casual audience and a physical release later (that no doubt the majority of dedicated fans will buy again anyway)? Or why not, in these times of economic recession, cut the marketing crap and just get the music out there as easily and quickly as possible, in turn reducing costs and boosting the all so important profit margins?
Whilst at time of writing this incident seems pretty unique – given that most albums only leak within a few weeks of release, don’t be surprised for it to become a more common occurrence in the future. Check out http://www.thrice.net/ for the band’s official response.
“Something’s gone terribly wrong, everyone, all the world is mad” – it’s almost as if Thrice knew, even if the industry didn’t.