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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Chekkit

Apparently Sleater-Kinney is none too thrilled about folks downloading copies of their upcoming record.

Fair enough, but one must ask, what's the deal with Sub Pop's part sending out promo copies three months in advance? If the sorry bunch at Billboard is allowed to hear advance copies of the record, one could assume in this day and age that everybody else will too. I can't help but think that Jonathan Poneman and Co. may have dropped the ball with regard to the release date on this one.

I always said that if I was in a kick ass rock band, I would be annoyed, and yet at the same time rather flattered that people cared enough about my record to download it three months in advance. The Sleater make a variety of good points in their website posting. Whether or not this will make me any less likely to listen to it early, especially with the knowledge that I plan to purchase it, and give it a glowing online review (provided its as good as I think it will be), is up for debate.

5 Comments:

Blogger rajeev said...

sub pop did the same with the low record - it leaked in *october* and didn't even come out till 3 weeks ago. irresponsible mgmt if yr trying to prevent leaks.

4:21 PM

 
Anonymous Gerard said...

I liked their open letter. Heartfelt stuff from 3 sharp people. That said, the crazed CD burning w/ Sub Pop advances as the source material oughta be as much of a concern as uploading/downloading. This album can be effectively leaked without the internet even being involved. I've twice been offered a copy in the past 4 days, not by superfans or craven bootleggers, but by professional journalists. Which is terrific when you consider that one of more of them might be writing a news item about Sleater-Kinney being upset with their album being leaked.

8:46 PM

 
Blogger dave said...

Having never worked in the record industry, I'm not overly familiar with how long the gap between an album's completion and it's actual release date is, but I'm told the art/packaging/publicity usually entails about 3 months. While I can see how Sup Pop would want to showcase their newest showponies ASAP, being the Limewire-era and all, does it make a huge difference saleswise to keep the promos under wraps until...say, a month and a half before the release date? I don't know the answer.

And don't even get me started on the logic behind 4 month differentials between UK and US releases from American bands (e.g. Mercury Rev).

10:10 AM

 
Blogger Phil said...

I am completely with you (Dave) on this one. Unless they are trying to garner a pre-release buzz through the album leaking, I can't understand why review copies should be sent out this early.

Granted it's an expensive technique, but if labels wanted to get press copies out without subseuqent bootlegging, they could use the method used when OK Computer came out and crazy glue tapes into a walkman. The additional benefit is that they create fun collector's items (I still have my OKC walkman somewhere).

10:57 AM

 
Anonymous Gerard said...

Dave,

assuming that Sub Pop hope to generate the requisite amount of press coverage for a release of this nature, they HAVE TO send out promos approx. 3 months prior to street date. The lead time for the bigger monthly magazines (Spin, Blender, whatever) is such that keeping the album under wraps until, say 6 weeks prior to release as you suggested, ensures that most of the traditional rock journalism places (ie. not music blogs) won't be able to pass commentary until the album is long past release date. And I can't understate the importance to a label like Sub Pop of having a terribly strong first week of release.

Is all of that worth risking leaks, file sharing, mass CD burning? Hard to say. But it would be very gutsy of a label to try and enforce a serious embargo on advance copies. It's been done before by majors to varying degrees of success. It seemed as though Elektra were very successful keeping a lid on the last Metallica album (though Metallica were far less successful recording an album that anyone in their right mind would've wanted to play more than once). And of course, Metallica's hardcore fans number in the millions, not the tens of thousands. Without the benefit of commercial radio play, MTV or SNL appearances, a band like Sleater-Kinney is particularly dependent on the buzz generated by print media.

I'm not 100% convinced that the leaks are unhelpful. Clearly there are some cheap persons who will not buy the real deal (and might not have done so under any circumstances in an earlier era, either). But if the word of mouth being generated by such leaks is quite strong, well, there are worse scenarios. Like, for instance, your new CD ending up on Limewire or Soulseek and receiving a negative response. Which, I trust will not be the case with the new Sleater-Kinney CD.

Phil, I remember the OK Computer/Walkman idea and that was a good one. The trouble is, you can only go to the well with that so many times. While a writer already inclined to think of S-K as a great band would be willing to listen to them under such conditions, someone else, say, an editor who is skeptical about their commercial viability (compared to a Killers cover story), doesn't need any further excuses to ignore the album. I remember reading that for the already mentioned 'St. Anger' album, reviewers were only allowed to hear Metallica's opus by visiting the label offices and being played the album under supervision of a record company employee. Not the greatest way to let a reviewer judge a band's bold new direction (or in this case, aimless, witless pile of pro tools crap), especially when much of the review might be filled with jokes about the circumstances under which they got to hear it.

6:45 AM

 

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