In 2012, bands fight The Man by boycotting themselves.
Hey, do you like Motörhead? Do ya like Motörhead enough to spend $600 on a collector's box set that contains no new material? No. Nobody does. Not even Motörhead. That's why they're boycotting themselves. Said Lemmy Kilmister in response to the outrageously priced collection:
"Unfortunately greed once again rears its yapping head. I would advise against it even for the most rabid completists."
So how and why does this thing even exist without the blessing of those responsible for its content? Well, as it turns out, the members of Motörhead don't actually own or control any of their own recordings. So just like Sony's quick-fire price hike to capitalize on Whitney Houston's death, label execs can use Motörhead tracks in whatever way they think is most likely to "earn" them that new addition on their St. Barth's summer house.
This isn't the first time we've seen a major musician fire back at gratuitous money-grubbing moves. Last November, Elvis Costello launched his "Steal This Album" campaign as a reaction to his The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook box set, priced at $202. But more and more, we're beginning to see independent artist--artists who don't have 20+ years of major label money-making to fall back on--take the leap.
Streetlight Manifesto have refrained from publicly airing their specific grievances with longtime label Victory, but have recently taken to their blog to petition their fans:
"Please boycott all Streetlight-related items by not purchasing any of our records or merchandise from Victory’s website, any traditional CD stores, online third party retailers or any digital distribution service. Victory has a long-time reputation of pocketing all of the proceeds from a band’s music and merch, with shady accounting and generally bully-ish behavior. If you want to support Streetlight, please make all SM related purchases from our own webstore, The RISC Store or come out to a show and buy a shirt or cd from us directly."
But of course, it would be impossible to avoid the big, pink, RIAA-evading elephant in the room:
"Alternately, we’re sure you can find a way to get the tunes onto your computer that may not be, ahem, traditional… Speaking a Bit metaphorically, there is a Torrent of methods to accomplish this, and Google is your always loyal friend…"
Canuck indie-poppers Paper Lions, on the other hand, aren't afraid to air their dirty laundry, but then again, it's not like they really have anything to lose:
"In August of 2009, we raised the money to rent a studio, hire a producer, and record Trophies. A few months later, we were approached by a record label that wanted to release Trophies on our behalf...Fast forward to the present: we have yet to see a paycheque for a single record sold by them. If you bought our record on Amazon or iTunes, or even at a record store, we didn’t get that money. We don’t know why. We don’t know if it’s being held somewhere, or if it’s been spent."
The Belfast band's answer to their injustices was to release the album for free on their own website, on their own terms. Will it pay off? Only time will tell, but hey, it seems to be doing wonders for their publicity. Hell, I've never even heard of these guys before today...
So what does it all mean? Well, the music industry is fundamentally flawed. This isn't really news to anyone. But what is important to recognize is that, for the first time, artists on a wide scale--from those barely making rent to those with multi-million dollar mansions in every state--are fighting back, even if it means taking a huge financial risk. Perhaps it's due to the fact that the progression of technology and social media renders labels relatively obsolete. Or perhaps it's because music is in such a state of total chaos and corruption, the only way to go is up.