Perhaps more than any artistic industry, the music business is deeply affected by the continuous evolution of technology. New recording processes are constantly being invented, formats are always shifting and people are regularly experimenting with new forms of distribution and marketing. Plenty of artists have embraced the Internet as a means of spreading their work around and creating a more intimate network of fans.
Prince is not one of those people. Yesterday, he told the U.K. Daily Mirror that that he thought the Internet was "completely over." In fact, he seems to be allergic to most all modern technology. "All these computers and digital gadgets are no good," he told the newspaper that will be giving away his next album 20Ten. "They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you."
But there are a handful of artists who would disagree with Prince.
The platinum selling U.K. band shocked the world in 2007 when they released their seventh album In Rainbows not only as a surprise digital download but also under a "pay what you like" system. Listeners could pay however much they thought the album was worth, and they still managed to move several hundred thousand copies when the album was released in stores later in the year. Though the band have said that In Rainbows was merely an experiment they probably wouldn't ever return to, it should certainly be considered a successful one.
The man behind Nine Inch Nails loves the Internet and has been an early adopter of just about every major piece of digital technology introduced in the past two decades. Reznor has provided a number of full albums and other projects via download, usually for free with extra bonus incentives for paying customers. His most recent project — the self-titled EP from his new band How to Destroy Angels — was also given away for nothing.
New to the electronic distribution game, Phair slid a new album onto the Internet just this past weekend. Funstyle is an 11-track album that is available for download for a paltry $5.99, and it's made up of some of Phair's most uninhibited (and sort of goofy) experiments. "Bollywood" has already become a viral hit just because it's so incredibly odd, and the rest of the album has been receiving relatively positive reviews. Whether or not the model works for Phair remains to be seen, but she is certainly getting her feet wet.
The original "Loser" still creates albums that are sold in stores, but he has also been working on a project he calls the Record Club. Beck gets his friends (including members of Wilco, producer Nigel Godrich, MGMT, freak-folkie Devendra Banhart and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore) together for jam sessions on classic albums like Skip Spence's Oar and the Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground and Nico. All of the recordings — many of which are tremendous — have all been made available absolutely free.
Most Every Rapper Working Today
The hip-hop world has embraced the virtual world wholeheartedly, giving away mixtapes and exclusive tracks to anybody who wants to right-click a link. And it only seems to help their bottom line, too. Though the songs had been available for free for months on his So Far Gone mixtape, Drake still moved a few hundred thousand copies of the commercial EP version of So Far Gone. Lil Wayne gave away hundreds of free (and excellent) songs in the lead up to The Carter III, and he will probably be the last person ever to sell a million copies in the first week of release.
Who are your favorite Internet-friendly artists? Let us know in the comments!