Older, wiser Kaiser Chiefs start to see the benefits of DIY
YOU COME across the terms “interactive” and “digital platform” in a lot of music industry press releases these days. They sound good but mean nothing at all. They’re just unnecessary layers for concealing the fact that the basic fare on offer (the actual music) needs a helping technological hand. Throwing up a link to a social networking site doesn’t exactly place you at the cutting edge of digital innovation.
It’s with some trepidation, then, that you learn that the new Kaiser Chiefs album is being released via a “brand new, innovative digital platform”. Such talk is usually the preserve of those in the last chance saloon (Kaiser Chiefs have been struggling of late) and signals a desperate throw of the “digital platform” dice: bells and whistles to distract us from the quality of musicianship and songwriting.
But Kaiser Chiefs may well be on to something. The Future Is Medieval gets a bog-standard physical release at the beginning of July, but for the month of June they’re going the bespoke route, which means you can design your own album.
It’s simple. Go to their website (kaiserchiefs.com) to hear 20 oneminute samples of the new songs. Choose your favourite 10, track-list them as you see fit, then customise your own artwork. All for £7.50 (about ¤8.40). Nothing revolutionary about that. What’s interesting is that a chart on the website shows which track-lists are the most popular. The one done up by singer Ricky Wilson (or someone using his name) is currently the most purchased version, followed by one compiled by the hand-wringers at the Guardian. Also in the top five is one by the drownedinsound website people and one by DJ Chris Moyles.
But wait, it gets better. If anyone chooses to buy your customised album, you get paid £1 direct from the band’s royalties.
Sure, it’s a publicity stunt, but one that at least tries to re-engage listeners with the album format, according to Wilson: “No one invests much in buying a record anymore, so we had to find a way for people to have an emotional attachment to it. You can ignore what’s happening with the music industry or you can do something about it. Something has to change – everyone is too scared.”
Kaiser Chiefs should run with this “devolution” idea. Presumably they’ll be touring the album, so they could apply the same logic to their live shows. Stick up 20-odd songs on the website for fans to select their own set-list. All you’d need to do is aggregate the scores; there must be some computer programme out there that could do that in a few minutes.
It’s a buyer’s market for sure. Queens of the Stone Age are responding to the changed conditions by letting fans chose their upcoming Glastonbury set-list for them. Josh Homme has put up 50 of the band’s songs on to Zane Lowe’s BBC page (bbc.co.uk/ radio1/zanelowe/queensofthe stoneage); all you have to do is select the 10 you want to hear at Glastonbury. I’ve just voted for them to play Feel Good Hit of the Summer 10 times in a row.
That’s the freedom of the internet for you.
Pick’n’mix: Kaiser Chiefs invite you to create – and even sell – your own