Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Shins new album leaks. A Blessing and a Curse.

Wincing The Night Away, the new album from The Shins was leaked a few weeks ago.
Some reports say this is not the final mix of the album. The album is a big change sonically for the Shins, and it may take some getting used to for new fans. I'll save the review of this album for another time, right now, I just want to talk about leaked albums.

I have mixed feelings about albums leaking. On one hand, as a fan I love to get my hands on albums as soon as I can. I 'm eager to hear new music, especially from a band I love. Once in a while, things happen with bands and producers and record labels, and music gets leaked that you would have never heard otherwise.

Sometimes, a leaked album ends up being totally different from the commercial version, if it is leaked before the final mix is done. For fanatics and completists, these are the things that can make the world go round. One example is Whiskeytown's final album Pneumonia. The Ryan Adams led band recorded the album for Outpost records, and the label dissolved when Polygram was acquired by Universal. The album ended up in limbo for quite some time. It was leaked on the net, and fans were able to hear an album that might never be released commercially. The album made the rounds for over a year, and was finally released by Lost Highway records with a completely different mix, and a different track listing. Two songs on the bootleg version are not on the final release. The leaked version was so widespread, that one of the tracks, Barlights, which is not on the final version, was covered and released by the band Minibar before Pneumonia was released. I have both versions of this album, and I love them both a lot, but for different reasons. This is a case where I am certainly happy the bootleg exists.

Another example is the famous case of WILCO and their album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, detailed in depth in their documentary "I am Trying to Break Your Heart". This album changed the perception of leaked albums and their effect on sales. Without the album being leaked, it may have never been released. Its free distribution on the net generated so much hype, that it outsold all of their previous albums many times over.

Sometimes though, I wish albums didn't leak. If you download an album, and you are anything like me, the first listen isn't a "real listen". You may be skipping through tracks to make sure all of the files work, or you are just listening through a crappy pair of computer speakers. For a real music fan, there is nothing better than taking the wrapper off of that CD you just bought for the first time, and sitting down and listening to a new album on a good pair of speakers, with nothing between you and the music.
Sometimes, it feels like knowing what you are getting for Christmas. The element of surprise, and the belief that "good things come to those who wait" is taken away. So for those reasons, I consider the leak of the new Shins album a blessing and a curse.


Asbjørn said...

Hi there Kurt, Satek here. Kudos on your blog. Now for the comment:

A group of friends and I went to see the Dears in Oslo, Norway the 9th of August. They played material from their new album, released 20 days later, almost exclusively. The album was leaked a couple of months prior to the concert, so we knew the songs well and unsubtly sung and jumped along. Murray, the vocalist, didn't say much during the gig, but one time he said "this is awesome", and I'm pretty sure he referred to the massive response we were giving (to songs we weren't supposed to know). And it sure was awesome.

And so is the Shins new album ;)

Zee Diddy said...
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Dennis said...

In this the digital age, any sort of leaking can almost be counted on as a by product of guerilla marketing. Whether it be due to the efforts of the artists themselves, or someone in their camp, it is almost certainly but one step in someone’s master plan designed to created the ever sought after “buzz.”

And while I do currently enjoy getting some kind of advance ear (or even an eye in the case of movie and TV productions) to my favorites artists works. I do hope that this current trend is but a step on the path to some kind of future tightened effort to keep the final product under wraps until the big unveiling. And I mean that literally. I have this image in my mind of great works of art being presented to the masses.

At first the anxious crowds are gathered around and are presented some item under a giant cloth. The thing kept hidden until just the right amount of anticipation it built. And then, with a touch of dramatic flair, the object is revealed for all to drink in at once.

That’s the way to do shit.

Zee Diddy said...

I have to agree with KC on some fronts...but alas I'm like a kid that can't wait to open his Christmas gifts and I'm digging up the house to find them. The problem here is that, well of late anyhow, it doesn't seem to be hurting the artist as much as it does the label. Labels can go f#@$! (thanks to AdSense for making me editand repost this...) themselves tho'. Seriously. Treating artists as quick hit commodities and basically lacking any type of foster longevity is ridiculous.
The ethos of the late 60's and early 70's where the label really tries to further a band's career is all but over. It's a global free for all...and it this point it's up to the artist to get in the van and sell some tickets and tee shirts. Labels will sign up a whole scene and then try and throw them at the wall and see who's crazy really. Especially with a precedent set by bands like Korn that are now giving up touring revenues and merch sales to the label claiming it's a "partnership". Just you wait...ugh.