The folks behind the rock group Harvey Danger have released their latest album titled Little By Little… for free download off their website in MP3 format with no DRM protection. It’s yours for the taking and sharing. Pass it around to your friends, burn multiple CDs and give it away, whatever you want to do. No, they haven’t gone insane. They’re just putting to test one of the central claims by proponents of P2P file sharing: that sharing files actually increases the likelihood of sales as more people have an opportunity to be exposed to the music they might not bother trying otherwise. They have a nice big explanation on their website of their motivation and what they hope to achieve with this experiment:
In preparing to self-release our new album, we thought long and hard about how best to use the Internet. Given our unusual history, and a long-held sense that the practice now being demonized by the music biz as “illegal” file sharing can be a friend to the independent musician, we have decided to embrace the indisputable fact of music in the 21st century, put our money where our mouth is, and make our record, Little By Little…, available for download via Bittorrent, and at our website. We’re not streaming, or offering 30-second song samples, or annoying you with digital rights management software; we’re putting up the whole record, for free, forever. Full stop. Please help yourself; if you like it, please share with friends.
Of course, the CD will also be for sale on the site, as well as in fine independent record stores across the country, in a deluxe package that includes a 30-minute bonus disc that serves as a companion piece to the record proper (retail price for the package is $11.99).
We embark on this experiment with both enthusiasm and curiosity—and, ok, maybe a twinge of anxiety. Why are we doing this? The short answer is simply that we want a lot of people to hear the record.
This is cool as hell and they’re going all out. The download includes not just the tracks themselves, but also JPEGs of the CD art and HTML files that include active links on the images. Now I’ve never heard of Harvey Danger before as I don’t tend to listen to the radio outside of NPR these days because I’m at that age where most new music produced sounds like total crap to my ears. But what the hey, I’m willing to give something that’s free a listen so I grabbed the download and fired up Winamp and I have to admit that they’re not half bad. I particularly like the first track titled Wine, Women, and Song, but don’t take my word for it when you can go grab your own copy for yourself. If you’re like me and have never heard of these guys before then you’re exactly the target they’re hoping to hit with this experiment. Oh, and any group with a song titled Cream and Bastards Rise is pretty much a shoe-in for an SEB endorsement.
Am I a new Harvey Danger fan? Too soon to tell as I’m not fond of every song on the album, but I am a fan of their attempt to embrace a vilified technology and see if they can’t prove the RIAA wrong in the process. So as soon as I’m back to work full time I’m going to slap down my $12.00 and buy a copy of the album from the website. The CD is certainly reasonably priced even if I end up only liking one of the songs on it in the end. Certainly beats spending around $20 without hearing them first and finding out you only like one song. If you don’t want to buy the whole album, or you want to show your appreciation by giving back more than the asking price, they have a donation link on their site you can use to do so as an alternative to buying a copy of the CD.
This is wicked cool and I encourage everyone to help spread the word even if you end up not liking the album. These guys deserve our support for trying something different. Let’s hope their faith is rewarded well so perhaps more artists will take this approach.