Wednesday, February 26, 2014

TMFW 25 - 2 true "one of a kind" albums

Last week's TMFW was about a prolific songwriter who floods digital markets in hopes that people will find and access his music.  This week brings the opposite: two examples of artists who made a musical album, then distributed exactly ONE copy.  
In 1983, the French electronic music artist Jean-Michel Jarre recorded Music For Supermarkets, an album of music that was created specifically for some friends' art exhibition that was supermarket themed.  The art in the exhibition was to be auctioned at the end of the show, and Jarre decided that he would make the album a piece of art itself.  So he pressed one physical copy of the music, and destroyed the master tapes.  The record was auctioned off for the benefit of charity, and was purchased for the equivalent of around 10,000 Euro.  It has since been sold twice and the current owner is unknown.  In the case of Music For Supermarkets, there is some availability to hear the music as the album was played in full on an AM radio station in Luxembourg (and thereafter pirated) shortly after its sale.  But given the quality of the broadcast and the taping, sound quality is apparently pretty bad.
In 2012, the British Band Field Music repeated Jarre's stunt and made a record called "One Copy."  After destroying the digital files that made up the master "tapes," they then pressed the record and placed it on display in an art gallery, where it played on a turntable.  Here's Field Music founding member Peter Brewis talking about the idea behind the record, where he notes that the idea was to "do something almost in opposition to the digital proliferation of music." 
BONUS FACT:  In 2009 the indie songwriter Sufjan Stevens held a contest where he "swapped" songs with a fan.  In conjunction with a holiday record that he was promoting, Stevens' label invited songwriters to record and submit their own holiday tune.  The legal rights to the winning song would then become Stevens' property, while the rights to Stevens' song would go to the contestant.  The contest winner, rather than selling the song (or even posting the song to YouTube or some other service where it would proliferate), decided to keep it for himself.  For a time after the song was given to him, he hosted "listening sessions" in his apartment where friends (and strangers who requested an invite) could hear the track on a pair of headphones. The contest winner saw the act as one of "romance," and as "an effort to rekindle the flames of rarity." Those who heard it praised the track.  Those who couldn't typically weren't pleased with the artificial scarcity.

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