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David Byrne, Brian Eno and the viral album

August 18, 2008 |  3:19 pm

Musicians David Byrne and Brian Eno, the historic duo who brought the world "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" more than 20 years ago, have a new album out, "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today."

But don't feel you have to run to the record store (if you can still find one of those open near you) to buy the CD. There are many ways to experience this album, including the most radical -- putting the entire thing on your own website and blog (as I've done above) to listen to it for free.

For those who want to own it, they can buy directly from the "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today" website. The digital album costs $8.99. The CD and the digital album together go for $11.99. For the deluxe package, including a film about the album, it's $69.99. (Some people really love these guys).

Byrne and Eno are doing all this without the help of a label. Instead, they turned to Topspin, a Santa Monica-based software company, which is powering the direct fan engagement and the e-commerce behind the album's site. Topspin aims to help musicians, popular and unknown, connect with their fans using ...

... software tools and the Internet.

"This is going to be the way that people release albums in the future," said Topspin CEO Ian Rogers, Yahoo's former general manager of music.

Rogers pointed to the success of similar efforts by Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, both of which directly marketed to fans and gave people  flexible ways to experience the music, such as free or name-your-own-price downloads.

There are different levels of fandom, of course, and the Topspin model, if it works, should give the artists and their managers a lot of information about these levels.

The measurements of success are different than they have been in the past. Old: the numbers of records sold. New: How many fan e-mails artists get in exchange for a free download of the song or how many people embed the album on their blog.

We'd suggest not giving up your relationship with Amazon.com and iTunes quite yet. But Topspin offers a new model for those "who want to close the loop from the marketing of music to the acquisition of music," Rogers said. 

-- Michelle Quinn

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