Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Danger Mouse v. EMI

DJ, producer, musician, and self-described auteur Danger Mouse (real name Brian Joseph Burton) made his mark on the record industry by disregarding any legal protections they had set up and creating the Grey Album, a mash up of Jay Z’s black album and The Beatles’ White Album.

While it did not take long for the “cease and desist” orders to come in, the young producer’s name was everywhere. Since then he’s gone on to become 50% Gnarls Barkley, produce records for a bunch of bands both big and small. One of the “smaller” – and by smaller I mean lesser known but by no means not as good - bands is the group Sparklehorse. It was a bit of a dream- team collaboration. Not only would the record feature Danger Mouse and the band, but also the likes of the Flaming Lips and Iggy Pop. PLUS, it was going to come packaged in a book of photos shot by enigmatic film director David Lynch.

Anyway, the idea was way too expansive – and dare I say cinematic – for the folks at EMI, Danger Mouse’s record label, who have tried to put the kibosh on the release of the record. Rather than let a work sit on the shelf for legal reasons, the artists all decided to release the book of photos that would have housed the record with a blank disk and a note that says go ahead and download it from wherever.

What does this mean?

Despite the fact that we will never know how many torrents and megaupload.com downloads of this record will occur, stories like this will do nothing to quell the demand for a record. In fact, the shelving of the release by EMI, is the best marketing for the record. (See the Jon Brian version of Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine.) It may not translate to increased sales of the book with the blank disk, but it will undoubtedly give Sparklehorse added buzz behind their upcoming tour for the record. Touring is where most groups make their money, thus this looks like a win for the band.

As for Danger Mouse, he really won’t lose much either. His individual brand as an iconoclast who cares about quality products more than cold hard cash will continue to benefit him with more invitations to produce records from even more artists.

(Oh, and if you're interested in getting the album, this website will lead you to the place to get it.)

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