Occasionally I hear folks complain about the fact that there is no good music out there any more (this myth was recently perpetuated by LA Reid in this, my “quote of the year”). But the fact is, many of the major national and regional outlets that in the past were the gatekeepers of new content (in particular radio, retail & TV) have ether been homogenized in such a way that they are ineffective at presenting new music to consumers, they are now irrelevant as tastemaking outlets, or both. There’s a whole new world of music promotion that is rising up from the ashes of the old guard that is primarily user-generated: thousands of blogs (Brooklyn Vegan and Day Trotter are excellent outlets focused on indie music) and online radio stations (Pandora is leading the pack) are doing a fantastic job at discovering and promoting new music. There are more outlets then ever to hear/promote new music, they might just not be quite as obvious as they were 10 years ago.

All this being said, I do love seeing quality music from real “developing” artists playing real songs on national TV. I got turned onto Feist from the work she has done with Broken Social Scene, an amazing collective out of Toronto. She’s got a new solo record out and a new song, (“1,2,3,4”) that was heavily promoted in the new iPod commercial. Check her out performing on the Today Show yesterday:

The Arts and Crafts label is a good example of label that understands the importance of a brand. Much the same as Stones Throw, I know that 9 times out of 10 times I’ll be into what the label puts out. Maybe it’s the fact that more than half the bands on the label have members who play with Broken Social Scene (who are great), but I like to think that they have a particular aesthetic and musical taste that mirrors mine. It makes me want to support them and buy their records/downloads.

Which leads me to the unorthodox release of the new Stars record. Days after the record was mastered, the label released it online, months prior to its retail street date. The following was posted on the bands Website:

Traditional music business practice says we are to begin sending out copies of this album now. We give advance copies to print publications in hopes of securing features that coincide with our September date. We meet with radio stations in hopes of securing airplay. etc, etc.

Inevitably someone will leak the album.

Throughout this process, the most important people in this value chain, the fans, are given only two options – wait until September 25th to legally purchase the new album or choose from a variety of sources and download the album for free, at any time.

We hope you’ll choose to support the band, and choose to pay for their album. However we don’t think it’s fair you should have to wait until September 25th to do so.

We believe that the line between the media and the public is now completely grey.

What is the difference between a writer for a big glossy music magazine and a student writing about their favourite bands on their blog? What differentiates a commercial radio station from someone adding a song to their lastfm channel? or their myspace page?

As such, we are making the new Stars album available for legal download today, four days after its completion. The CD and double vinyl versions of the album will still be released on our official release date, September 25th. We hope you will continue to support music retailers should a physical album in all its packaged glory be your choice of format.

It’s our hope that given a clear, legal alternative to downloading music for free, you will choose to support the creators.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Sincerely,

Stars and Arts&Crafts

Whether these motives are indeed true, or this was just a really shrewd marketing move by the label…I’m not sure. Arts and Crafts may have a point…I do know that the press are eating the record up, with positive reviews in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Stylus and about a hundred million music blogs. Press may be propelled to cover this release more thoroughly as it’s the first time this tactic has been taken. But if every artist did the same, would press be so kind? What if your fan base is less computer savvy than Stars? Will they still be able to find the record if there is no retail or radio coverage? Independent retail definitely holds a grudge when they think they have been wronged (read my Smashing Pumpkins commentary here). Does this even matter anymore?