Un fucking good musician.
Electro-rocker supreme and all-around good guy, Whitey has been producing high-quality music since 2004. Despite an appearance on the Grand Theft Auto IV soundtrack, this hasn’t caused him any sort of trouble in the “too much of it and what to do with it” sort of way.
In fact, he’s not even signed to a label at this moment, which is a damn shame. As Overconfident Orientalist astutely pointed out in the Heavy Rotation Vol. 30 comment thread, 1.) he’s “bleeding talent all over the internet,” and 2.) everything other than The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train is impossible to get ahold of.
This may be due to his lack of label support. But this may also be due to Whitey’s lapse of judgment.
Here’s the situation: Whitey’s follow-up, Great Shakes, was due to be released in 2007. However, some piece of shit publicist decided to dump his unreleased album on the internets well before Whitey was ready to release it. It’s a fucked up situation. The whole story (more or less) is here, along with a great interview, in which Whitey does not cease drinking or smoking once.
Whitey’s response was to pull the album and rework some of the songs, which would be released under a new title supposedly in 2008. As this is 2010, we all can figure out what happened. No album yet and most of his catalog is now only available in illicit pirate form.
Without a doubt, a fucked-up situation. But let’s take a look at things from another perspective…
Has also written under the name "Tits McGee."
As the author behind the multi-million-dollar cottage industry that is magical, scar-faced teens, Rowling is also on the run from the spectre of piracy. According to an article at CNN.com, “J.K Rowling has thus far refused to make any of her Harry Potter books available digitally because of piracy fears.”
Basically, Rowling has decided that the possibility of piracy would damage her immense wealth and therefore, will not give her fans the opportunity to shower her with more money by purchasing yet another version of the same book they probably already have in hardcover, softcover and collected special editions.
This is a pretty typical response from most hugely successful authors and their respective publishers. They won’t sell e-books because 1.) they don’t like the price point, which is driven by intense competition and the lack of any real distribution cost and 2.) the pirates will win (again).
So by not providing an electronic version, Rowling has cut herself completely out of a market and wishes to lay it all at the feet of faceless, nameless internet thugs who only wish to take and take and take.
The Fancy Plans Art Department once again defines "adequate..."
Here’s where both of these artists converge. On one hand, we have a truly talented artist who is underexposed and lacking in distribution “muscle.” On the other hand, we have J.K. Rowling. Both are concerned that their product has been devalued by being passed around the internet without a price tag.
In Whitey’s case, he decided to cancel the release of Great Shakes. Other artists have done the same when their albums were leaked. In Rowling’s case, she won’t even put the product out. But why?
Let’s say some die-hard Potterist decides to bust out the OCR software and scan in one of her books. After all the work of scanning and processing, they dump their labor of love over at the nearest Geocities LiveJournal Rowling fanclub site. Somebody else slaps it onto the nearest torrent site and the numbers come rolling back.
Rowling opens up her email one day and is alerted that 10,000 “illegal” electronic versions have been downloaded in the last day over at the Piratebay. In her mind (and her publisher’s), she has just “lost” 10,000 sales.
But she hasn’t. To assume that every one of those downloaders would have purchased a copy, if available is not just ignorant; it’s arrogant. Let’s be a little more realistic and say 5% would have purchased a copy. So she lost 500 sales.
Let’s repeat that together for clarity: SHE LOST 500 SALES. Read it again. J.K. Rowling, by not offering an electronic version of her book, lost 500 sales. She can blame it on piracy all she wants, but by not providing an e-book, all she guarantees is that she’ll never make a single dollar or pound or whatever from fans who wish to buy an electronic version.
Whitey is making the same mistake. Rather than just releasing the album and relying on interested fans to pick it up, he pulled it instead. This only guaranteed that the only version of Great Shakes available would never make him any money. His EPs are impossible to find. You can get a copy of the Individuals EP from a UK shop, purchased in pounds. That’s it. And that’s assuming the record store’s website and database are up-to-date.
He should have just released the album or sold individual tracks through Amazon or his MySpace site or pretty much anywhere that would host them (Beatport, etc.) Instead, he tries to create artificial scarcity by refusing to put his official Whitey stamp on the pirated material.
The Fancy Plans Art Dept. may now consider themselves on "adminstrative leave" pending their upcoming dismissals.
The Point to All This Rambling
The various media forces need to understand that they can’t stop or contain piracy. Thousands of small, unsigned artists are releasing their music for free and providing premium packages to earn money. Touring and ancillary businesses are the name of the game.
Authors are releasing free PDF versions of the same books they’re selling on Amazon and watching sales increase rather than disappear.
The best thing you can do in this day and age is put out a cheap (or free) electronic version of your creations as soon as possible. Sure it will be pirated. But it will also get your name out and your talent in front of eyes and ears you’ll never reach in the local brick-and-mortar store.
And please don’t give us an inferior product. Big media pushers are always tainting their electronic products with crippling DRM, bullshit EULAs and limited transferability. Why would anyone want to pay more for an electronic file that is more limited and less useful than the one they can get for free?
Why would I spend $1.29 to get a song that I can keep on only one hard drive and transfer to only one mp3 player (if that)? If I get the pirated version, I can dump it on all the mp3 players and computers in the house. I can stream it to my PS3 or move the file there as well. I can burn it to as many CDs as I want.
These industries need to stop presenting litigation and legislation as a business plan. If your future efforts in the digital market consist mainly of suing grandmothers and holding bitchfests on Capitol Hill, your industry can’t die fast enough.
Stop treating your fans as thieves and stop wishing you could turn back the clock. Make the most of what little time your industry has left. The more you attempt to wrest every dollar out of every person out there, the more animosity and contempt you earn from the next generation of disposable income.
Good luck in the future, Whitey. If anyone deserves a big break, it’s you.
J.K.: Just go count your money somewhere out of the limelight for a while and refrain from issuing ill-informed opinions. People liked you better when you were a surprising success story, rather than a petulant millionaire.
What Makes It Worth Reading All the Way Through
Another kickass track by Whitey, which can only be found on YouTube. (Case in point…)