My time online (when I’m not looking at videos of cats on treadmills and slow lorises holding cocktail umbrellas) is split between writing about things that are about to be released and reading about things that are about to be released.
I regularly receive press bumf from new bands (presumably penned themselves but usually prefaced with the line “I represent so-and-so” rather than “I am so-and-so”) about such-and-such an EP that was released to “much acclaim” (though they seldom give examples), or others about “much anticipated” debut releases, independent releases, self-releases, split-releases, limited edition releases, short-run releases, handmade releases, exclusive releases… the list goes on. The word is fascinating though isn’t it? Release. So exciting, so pregnant with meaning. Some captive beast soon to thrust its pent up expectation on the world only to be dashed upon the ruins of grim thwarted potential. Oh such glorious and gruesome possibilities!
Launch parties, album reviews, posters, flyers, street-teams, interviews, airplay, music videos and tours aside, what is a release these days?
It is data on a server.
Specifically music-flavoured data that, miraculously, can be consumed in Alaska or Minsk or Bangalore or Cleethorpes all at once BUT – nevertheless – wonderment aside, deep down it is essentially just a wav-file uploaded onto the system of some faceless digital aggregator and later christened “A Release”. And anyone can do it so long as they have an internet connection and a few quid in their pocket (somewhere between £20-£50 for the standard service offered by automated distributors such as Zimbalam, Tunecore etc) or in exchange for a percentage of whatever deal you’ve signed with whatever company that comes with whatever promotional perks.
As a consequence, having a global release under one’s belt is not as impressive as it used to be. So it is not surprising that people are now trying to liven things up a bit by releasing on retro (aka redundant) formats like cassette. As a press angle it is pretty cute but really all it actually means is a few extra words from some smug blogger who will probably just convert your “release” into a piece of ironic jewelery to show off next time he flops into whatever Camden coffee shop still suffers him. What then for the next album? Piano Roll maybe? Morse-code?
Here’s my idea: Let’s stop worrying about the format and start thinking about the delivery. After all, it is a release isn’t it? The word RELEASE can be a pretty exciting/terrifying verb when it wants to be.
So how about we attach the new crop of pop anthems to the backs of pumas and set them loose in HMV? Or dangle them from the talons of eagles? Or inject them into the eggs of crocodiles? (whatever seems apt for the track in question).
Dear Guardian Music,
We are pleased to announce the arrival of our latest 7”. It has been glued to the belly of a mountain lion and RELEASED into the Guardian News & Media Press Office, Kings Place/90 York Way, City of London N1 9GU (we hope you find it before it finds you!)
We have discovered that the complex visual rendering of our band’s latest wavform is, believe it or not, exactly replicated in the genetic code of a rare and deadly microscopic organism. To celebrate this coincidence we have, this very morning, RELEASED said organism into your office water cooler.
Also available on iTunes.
First published in October 2011