Beck's Sheet-Music Gambit And Six Other Alternatives To Just Putting Out A Boring Old Record

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This week neo-pop superstar Beck announced the release of Song Reader, a new "album" in the form of sheet music. The finished product offers nothing to listen to; just 20 sheets of notation collected in a "lavishly produced hardcover carrying case," according to the publishing outfit McSweeney's, which is working with Mr. Hansen to release this artful experiment.

People praised the project; others derided it—although not surprisingly, many musicians leaned toward the former. As the Beauty Pill's Chad Clark put it: "There is zero incentive to release music conventionally right now. It just feels dumb/masochistic. Might as well try shit. Why not?"

A solid point, and one that many of Clark's musical brethren have taken well to heart. Here are some of the more innovative ways that artists are trying to get people to pony up for music these days.

Attaching a download code. Simply selling off a card with access to an album is no longer enough; there's gotta be something extra. Mos Def attached a code to t-shirts. Portland rockers Wow & Flutter stuck a code under the wax seal of a specially brewed bottle of beer. Max Tundra included a free download with a can of kosher chicken soup. And Of Montreal went fucking bonkers with download options for their 2008 album Skeletal Lamping.

Releasing albums on USB drives. You'll usually find these tucked inside box sets, but some artists are offering miniature hard drives up as an alternative to a boring ol' CD. Trouble is: The more outlandish the packaging, the more expensive they get. The White Stripes' last album Icky Thump came out as Matryoshka doll-like flash drives, but with retail price of $99 each. The massive Beatles Remasters box set in the form of a green apple with USB drive hidden inside? Nearly $300. Also not cheap, but potentially tasty, are the Flaming Lips' series of gummy skulls with USB drives inside them.

Releasing music in wearable form The folks behind Playbutton ask this question: "We believe the music you love tells the world who you are, so why just listen to an album when you can wear it, too?" Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga to The xx and Dirty Three have also released music in the form of a badge with a headphone jack.

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2 comments
Lazarus1
Lazarus1

The chocolate record is pretty cool, but I'd prefer these musicians spend their considerable resources and energy producing forward-thinking music, not a bunch of gimmick novelty packaging. The recent stuff from the Flaming Lips and Jack White in particular has been uninspired and self-indulgent.

 

 

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