Does Kaiser Chiefs' album predict a riot in the music industry?

The band has released its new album in a format which allows fans to choose which tracks they want. Sounds gimmicky - er, innovative...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 27 Jun 2011

What do you do if you’re a mediocre band with an album to plug but you’ve dropped off the radar a bit? Yep, that’s right: come up with a gimmicky – er, sorry, innovative new way to let fans download it. Hence indie band the Kaiser Chiefs’ decision to release its new album, The Future is Medieval, in a sort of ‘do it yourself’ format. The idea is that fans can choose 10 out of a possible 20 tracks to download, then design the cover – all for the bargain price of £7.50. Fans can then even post their own versions on their Facebook and Twitter pages, and make £1 out of every copy of they manage to sell. Sounds like an awful lot of effort…

All this is part of the music industry’s achingly slow response to a drastic change in how the yoof listen to music. Gone are the days of rushing home from the shops with a 12-inch picture disc clutched in their sweaty paws and spending the afternoon listening to it all the way through: instead, the advent of the shuffle button means people prefer to mix things up. And because people listen to music on the move, as well as at home, it means they listen to it a lot more, too. Or, as lead singer-cum-web entrepreneur Ricky Wilson, the idea’s originator, put it: ‘If people buy tracks, let them buy tracks. If people don’t want to buy the album you’ve put together but just buy the tracks they like, alright.’ Alright indeed, Ricky.

Of course, the Kaiser Chiefs aren’t the first band to try to find a new way to flog their album. As far back as 2007, Radiohead decided that for a limited period, their seventh studio album, In Rainbows, would be priced at anywhere between nothing and £100, depending on what individual fans decided it was worth. According to a survey of 3,000 people, about a third of those who downloaded the album decided not to pay anything, while the average price was about £4 (no word on the number of people who paid £100, though). Apparently, it ended up making more than its predecessor, Hail to the Thief.

Is this the way the music industry’s going? Quite possibly: according to music royalties company PRS for Music, royalties from digital music services have grown by 173% since 2007. So from now on, be prepared to have to put an awful lot more effort into buying music. Take it away, lads: ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe it…’

- Image credit: Narisa/Flickr

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