Beck, the man who brought you “Loser” (a song that makes me want to rip my molars out and shove them into my ears so I can stop listening), thinks that he has found a way to truly combat music pirating. You see, in December, Beck will be releasing Beck Hansen’s Song Reader, an album of 20 unheard, unreleased tracks. Except that’s not actually the case. Instead of releasing an actual album, Beck will instead be releasing the music as sheet music.
Yeah, you read that right. People aren’t buying music, they’re buying the opportunity to play it on their own.
The “album” “…measures 9.5” x 12.5” with 108 pages comprising 20 individual full-color song booklets—18 featuring original lyrics, and 2 instrumentals—with covers from more than a dozen different artists.” More information about the actual product can be found here.
Read on to see why I think this idea will fail miserably.
Will Burns, a contributor to Forbes, wrote an article entitled “Beck ‘Produces’ A Genius Innovation That Appeals To The User-Generated Generation” about this release. I read through it shaking my head, wondering if Burns is actually in tune with this “user-generated generation” and understands how they operate.
He starts by saying that this is an “invitation” for musicians around the world to grab their instruments, load up GarageBand and get to recording their own versions of these songs. However, this assumes that these musicians know how to 1) record music and 2) read music.
Is recording music easier now than it ever has been? Absolutely. That doesn’t mean that each Beck fan has the means to record. You can’t just plug your piano into your computer and expect good sound quality. At the very least you need an A/D converter, like an M-Audio unit or an MBox 3. While not out of the realm of cost for many people, these units can still cost a pretty penny depending on what you get.
As for reading music, there are countless musicians who learned their instrument without delving into musical theory or learning to how sight read notation. Rather, they learned by playing their favorite songs from tab (which uses simple to read numbers and not notation), watching instructional videos on YouTube, or just figuring things out by ear.
So, right away, Beck is alienating a big portion of his listeners who are simply that. Listeners. Not producers of music. They want to get the music and sit back with it, not having to worry about how to reproduce the notes.
Burns then continues saying that the “content will not stand still”. Basically he is stating that people who actually go through the process of recording everything and are happy with the end result will share their product via the various available social networks (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc…).
Uhhh, yeah? Was that even really a question? People are now ready to share pretty much everything via the internet and if they can be part of some bigger product, they’re going to go for it. Everyone wants to feel connected, especially if there is a possibility that they can be a part of something that becomes huge. After all, don’t we all want to go viral?
It’s here that Burns makes a bit of a leap: He states that “this content will be hungrily consumed.” By whom? Huh? Aside from Beck fans and the very few music appreciators out there, this is going to fly over the head of pretty much everyone.
Myself? I’m beyond engrained in the music industry. I try my very best to pay attention to what is going on, to see what the new trends are and how it affects listeners, musicians, and labels. It’s a fascinating industry that is constantly evolving and changing, especially with social media. However, I could kindly give a crap what thirteen different variations of the same album are going to sound like. Scratch that. I don’t even give a single crap.
The next point that Burns makes is that the unique release of this “album” will be the “end-around on the pirating business.” Burns states, “Sure, someone will probably scan the sheet music into pdfs and send them around, but my gut tells me that, since Beck isn’t recording this music himself, the only way for Beck fans to truly experience Beck within this medium is to buy the full-color, beautifully designed package in a store.”
Oh, they want to experience the true Beck experience with a beautifully designed package? Is that anything like how musicians put together amazing liner notes and pictures in their album booklets? Booklets that piraters could kindly care less about? Pirating has shown that people want the product, not the accessories that come with it.
I personally find this tragic as music, being an auditory experience, can be enhanced greatly by the addition of visuals. A simple picture can change the perspective on a song or make things resonate so much deeper, so much more true. Not to mention that having lyrics readily available is incredibly useful.
Burns ends his article by saying that a Beck concert will be an incredible and unique experience. Why? Because Beck can sift through the various YouTube and other social media posted recordings and put together a fan-based immersive show.
Sorry, but if I’m paying to go to a concert, I want to see Beck perform his music in his own way. If I wanted to see these YouTube renditions, I’d simply go to YouTube from the comfort of my own couch. Hell, I’d spend that concert ticket money to order a pizza, a six-pack, and still have money left over to GO OUT AND BUY AN ALBUM!
Sorry Mr. Burns, I couldn’t disagree with you more on this release. Perhaps the only thing I’ll agree with you on is that it’s unique and that it definitely goes outside of the box. But unique and fascinating ideas don’t make them good ones.