I’m no stranger to controversy as it relates internet music, having participated in last year’s seminal Grey Tuesday and causing my former host to freak out a bit. The newest album to launch a thousand bittorrent clients is Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine.
Back on March 1st over at The Blahg, my linkblog, I mentioned the fact that several of the songs were available for download. Just today I learned from BoingBoing that the entire album is online and that Sony has been hoarding the album for close to two years. The SF Gate story cited by BoingBoing lists two fan sites, FreeFiona.com and FionaApple.org, as being the main voices calling for the album’s release and it seems as though they’ve been reasonably successful.
So it appears Sony’s instincts about the viability of the album were dead wrong. Just check out the buzz using this Technorati search. The majority of the reviews are positive if not completely gushing, which most interpret as the music industry stifling a unique voice in favor of producing more of the same old crap. I couldn’t agree more.
From what I’ve heard, and I’m not a Fiona Apple fan (sorry, Dan), this is a fabulous album where the artist has really tried to broaden her musical palette. Judging by the number of simultaneous downloaders when I got the file (188 people, 256 kB/s down) and the blog-talk, this album is also incredibly popular. The buzz of it’s online-only release and it’s hostage status at Sony are only fueling the fire.
I’m almost inclined to send Fiona $5 directly and skip the middleman. Imagine if I wasn’t the only one paying Ms. Apple for her wares. Even if only 5% of the people who downloaded the album sent cash, and roughly 1,000 people an hour are downloading the album, Fiona would make $6000.00 today. Granted, my numbers and methodology are a bit shaky, but you get the point. There’s money to be made from good content, especially music, and Sony is incredibly stupid for shelving such great music – unless, of course, they don’t need the extra cashflow for their bottom line.
The least Sony could have done was release the album to an online music store like iTunes or Napster and saved themselves the cost of producing physical CDs. As it is, they’ve backed their way into controlling the masters to a very popular CD that hasn’t been pressed yet. I’m not holding my breath that they’ll wise up and publish the CD, but it’s clear to me that they have a winner on their hands and have had so for some time.