by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Tomorrow's Parties & r & & r & For your consideration: a high-tech approach to dealing with the death of the album -- and a low-tech one.
First, the high-tech: In early August, the Wall Street Journal reported members of the often-disbanded rock band Buckcherry had voiced outrage that their new single "So Drunk ..." -- not the album, just the single -- had been leaked to the Internet.
It was leaked via Bittorrent, though, a file-sharing protocol that's really easy to track. Even as the band was saying how pissed off it was and offering the track for free to its "real fans," industrious computer geeks were following the file to its source, ultimately revealed to be the computer of the band's manager.
Buck Cherry, already years past hip, committed the cardinal information age sin of trying to outwit the geeks.
Then, the low-tech: A few days later, Billboard ran a story on the apparent popularity of bands playing entire albums live. Built To Spill, for example, will travel throughout the fall playing 1997's Perfect From Now On from beginning to end and nothing but. Go expecting to hear your favorite cut from Keep It Like a Secret and you'll be disappointed. In July, Public Enemy did the same, performing their seminal It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back at a Chicago festival.
This has been happening for a while, at least since Barry Hogan pioneered the idea in 2005 at his All Tomorrow's Parties festival series. Last week, though, Billboard offered up hard numbers. Sonic Youth made about $500,000 in ticket sales over three nights, two in Berkeley and one in Brooklyn. (By comparison, that band's entire 2006 tour grossed $315,000.) Liz Phair had a similar experience: Ticket sales from two appearances playing Exile in Guyville nearly doubled the nightly takes from her previous tour.
The upshot is this: While albums no longer sell, they still have the power to move big groups of people to do crazy things like pay $60 to hear live what could easily be heard at home on headphones. You can get pissed off about the disparity -- the injustice! -- of not being directly paid for your hard, well-loved work (and maybe become a Internet pariah), or you can stay on your grind. If the art resonates and people seek you out, eventually the money will too.