Death of a collector

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I’m not sure when streaming a band’s forthcoming album, pre-launch date, became a popular marketing ploy. But for at least 7 of the new releases I’ve bought this year so far, I’ve been able to listen to them in their entirety prior to making a purchase, and usually several weeks in advance.

As a marketing ploy, this is good news for me—it is good to know what I’m getting before I buy it, especially with bands I am unfamiliar with. It was streaming The Villagers album {Awayland}, a band that had previously passed me by, that convinced me to buy it. This doesn’t mean I’m not prepared to take risks, or rely on a trusted journalist’s or friend’s recommendation, but it does mean I can be more discerning when hitting the ‘buy’ button.

Could this work against an artist? Well, certainly. That hotly tipped release that has been slavered over by critics who have had advance copies months ahead could end up being just hyperbole and bandwagon jumping, which is often the case. I pre-ordered the last, much lauded, Nick Cave CD when its release was first announced, and then nearly cancelled the order when it streamed on The Guardian as the lyrics were, in places, embarrassing, and the overly dramatic vocal delivery grated, (The Bad Seeds though, what a band—please make a solo album without Nick). But I still kept the order if only for the promise of well designed packaging.

Therefore, it struck me as odd yesterday, when The Quietus announced that Stockholm electronic experimentalists, The Knife, were streaming their new album, due for release next week, on their website. Not so odd in itself in this day and age, but the fact that the artwork for Shaking The Habitual was also on show for all to see did strike me as such. The artwork contains a witty anti-capitalist side swipe by comic strip artist Liv Strömquist, (section above). This will come with all physical and digital purchases, and, as The Knife proudly announce, be fully readable online. As someone who has never given up on buying CDs as I’m old fashioned enough to still like having an artefact with artwork, this stumped me slightly. For now, I’ve read the comic online, laughed, got the joke. I’ve heard the music. Anytime between now and next week I can go back to The Knife’s website and listen to it again to the point that I could get bored with it. And then, I could stream it on Spotify once it has been released if there are still a few listens left in it. And I can point anyone that I might think is interested in such things to the website to read the comic strip, as I’m technically doing here. Therefore, this seems to really make buying a physical or digital own-able item pointless.

The question that now remains is: will I buy the album? Under normal circumstances I would do, as I like it. In some respects, as a sucker for (good) experimental electronic music that has its feet firmly rooted in pop, and as the sort of person who laps up satirical agit-prop comic book art, then I’m a target market for this ‘product’. The fact I’ve become interested enough to want to write about all this ‘new’ media gubbings, probably, also demonstrates that I’ve already, metaphorically at least, bought into this album. The fact that I will want to put it on my iPhone for the walk to work or for playing in the car, as well as listen to it on the decent stereo we have in our front room, (rather than on my computer speakers), will probably tip the balance. But if free wifi was rolled out across the country and I was truly always connected, then this, and other similar marketing activities, would probably, finally, start to kill the collector in me.

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