It didn’t work for the cranky Metallica; with all it’s outspoken, primped and pumped bullying, it didn’t work for the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), who tried to sue a 12-year-old girl for up to $150,000 per downloaded song from a list including tunes such as “If You’re Happy and You Know It;” but for one measly indie rock band — famous for breaking new ground on everything from song structure to record distribution disputes — what seemed impossible a short while ago has become a reality. Music pirates are voluntarily, and happily, coughing up dollars for downloaded music.
Gee, instead of whining and suing, all it took was a little bit of (surprise) fan appreciation. Go figure.
Wilco made news in 2002 when the boys received walking papers from their label, Reprise Records (a Warner Brothers subsidiary), as the result of a “difficult” album, only to sell it back to them for a profit when the band signed with a related label. That album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was one of the most highly acclaimed records in Wilco’s career, and the follow-up, A Ghost Is Born, is due for release this June. And then, uh-oh, the completed album was leaked on the Internet last month.
Time for Goldberg & Goldberg, right?
Wrong. Wilco set up a Web site called justafan.org, asking for donations from any fans who may have downloaded the album.
OK, these guys must be royal morons. I mean, everyone knows that kids that download music are just dastardly devils who want to wreck the bank accounts of their favorite bands so they can use the money they steal from old ladies to buy drugs they can sell to school children. Evil I tell you. The guys from Wilco must be off their rocker to think that music pirates would have any semblance of respect for their favorite bands.
The site brought in $1,500 on its first day.
Does this mean that maybe music downloaders aren’t even half as greedy as bands, such as Metallica make them out to be, and, gee, just want to be the first to hear their favorite band’s new album they are planning to buy anyway?
Hey, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, need a Metallic-tough tissue to wipe that look off you face?
And, as if this news wasn’t enlightening enough, Wilco is using the cash to help fund “Doctors Without Borders,” a charity dedicated to helping victims of disease, hunger and other hardships from around the world. Yes, Wilco is literally making music for a good cause. That’s something the cash-cow mainstream bands should think about before they bell their lawyers, ordering them to fry their own fans. And, speaking of fans, in case most of these rock stars forgot — because Wilco sure hasn’t — they’re the engine that pushes any rock ‘n’ roll caravan down the road.
The message on justafan.org puts this into perspective.
“…instead of embracing the Internet, and nurturing the work of genuine artists — not glossy novelty acts, or merely sex symbols — the music industry has sought out a scapegoat. It has responded with a string of lawsuits and recrimination — blaming the very fans that sustain them for the poor sales of their own increasingly mediocre product.”
This is the kind of relationship indie artists intrinsically have with their fans, and the reason why bitchy rock stars will always be a hollowed out version of the authentic artists they outsell.
So, here’s to a new the new dawn of music downloading. If you’re happy and you know it … clap your hands.
Contact Entertainment Editor Nick Margiasso at firstname.lastname@example.org