As many or most of you have heard, The Raconteurs have decided to forgo the pro forma step of sending out advance copies of their upcoming album, and instead, make it available to everyone on the same day. That day happens to be March 25th.
According to the band, "the Raconteurs would rather this release not be defined by its first-week sales, pre-release promotion or by someone defining it FOR YOU before you get to hear it."
Certainly, The Raconteur's new model allows the experience of listening to their album to be (potentially) un-mediated by a third party—namely critics. But that is sort of saying that the discourse surrounding music and the music itself are of equal importance; it puts a lot of weight on the words. In actuality, no amount of talk (or writing) about an album can emulate the actual experience of listening to it; reading comments and criticism beforehand might affect your expectations but not the experience with the album itself; when that moment comes, it is about you and the songs.
I find it interesting that most of the discussion has revolved around how artists and labels are working to reconfigure or redefine the idea of releasing an album. Certainly, the reception of a record and how it is presented might help get people to listen, go see a live show, or to a lesser extent, actually purchase an album—but what actually feels important to me is what happens after an album is released, and whether it will outlast its given moment in time. All of the chatter, hype, or buzz before an album comes out, or surrounding a band, is all but forgotten in the subsequent years. What remains is the music, and only then if it's worth remembering.
Rolling Stone magazine, in reviewing a band's entire catalog, will often assign an album a different amount of stars than the publication did when the album was first released. For example, Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain received 4 stars in 1994 and 5 stars a decade later, when the album was revisited (and reissued). Beck's Odelay got the same treatment. I find myself making the same kind of revisions: mentally re-ranking albums or bands, liking ones I never used to, disliking others I formerly enjoyed.
Yet there seems to be so much pressure on the right here and right now. If we know our affection is apt to mutate over time, what is this rush to love, to praise, or to deplore? Maybe it's that the next thing comes along so quickly. Our affections, or the entire process of discovery, have to move at the speed of the rest of our lives, which is to say rapidly. The fear, I suppose, is that technology is negatively shaping not only the way we talk about music but also the way we listen to it. I'd like to think it's only the commentary that is fleeting, that despite being capable of musical tourism, we will still listen to what moves us long after the discussion surrounding it ceases.
In other words, if the Raconteurs album is good, it doesn't matter who hears it when or who utters the first words in regards to how it sounds.
As a side note, want to know how boring talking about music blogging can be for other people? Check out this drawing someone made during a SXSW panel I was on about blogs. I am second in from the right. FYI, I was not wearing a headband nor do I have a bald patch.