This year saw the major labels struggle with business as usual, and independent releases offered hope for the future. Here’s some of the most innovative record
release plans of the year. Take note, RCA/EMI/Virgin/etc.: The future is now. You can sue folks for illegally uploading or downloading your products, but that’s just a symptom. To cure your problems, you need to embrace the new realities.


5. Cam’Ron-Public Enemy #1. In the middle of a the night, a pink range rover stops before a crowd of rabid fans and throws CDs at them. True, this is a mixtape so nobody was really looking to make money off it, but in terms of building hype for an artist who had suddenly disappeared, and clearing up all kinds of rumors about him, this showed style and flair. Too bad Killa Cam himself wasn’t there to make an appearance.

I’m a Hustler, Barry

bti_cover_web.jpg4.  Division Day-Beartrap Island (and tour). Inviting full participation from the blogosphere, Division Day recorded a bunch of covers and sent them to sites like this one in order to build hype for the indie label release of their debut album. Give a little, get a little. *Note*: This entry is not a misprint. Although Dvision Day self-released this album a long time ago, this year they got a (much deserved) record contract and re-released Beartrap Island, with some new production and new tracks.

3. Web-Only EPs. Carbon/Silicon, the new Mick Jones project, have been releasing free EPs on their website for over a year now, offering rewards for loyalty. Fans had to check in regularly to ensure they didn’t miss a release, and if they did they (like I did), they managed to amass a substantial collection of singles, complete with artwork. In a similar vein, The Wu Tang Clan dumped a truckload of mp3 versions of demos, leaked songs, mixtape tracks, and rarities, all free for the taking. The Wu followed up with a mixtape that featured some of those same cuts. All to build anticipation for their coming release. And Baby Teeth released an EP of covers from fellow Chicagoans including Liz Phair in an attempt to lure folks (like me) who had never heard of them before. I can say that, at least in my case, their plan worked. I got their debut album, released later in the year, where I otherwise wouldn’t have. All these bands provided quite a bit of music for free, in the hope that diehard fans would not only buy the official product but also would spend money on tour tickets and merchandise, and would share the free stuff with potential new fans.

Gangs of England-Carbon/Silicon

Six Foot One (Liz Phair cover)-Baby Teeth

2. Saul Williams. Saul offered his “Rise and Fall” album for free (with a suggested donation) as a low-quality mp3, but then provided FLAC/high quality mp3s for those willing to shell out at least ten bucks. Great idea that evolved from . . .

1. Radiohead. In Rainbows is not their best album. It’s not even their third-best. But Radiohead stuck a thumb in the eye of the RIAA and proved that music made to be about music and not money can still be profitable, if you think outside the jewel box and stop looking for disgustingly huge profits


Bloc Party. With different bonus cuts released on pressings offered exclusively by various suppliers (Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.), true fans were unable to buy all of the bonus tracks unless they purchased the same album multiple times. A slap in the face of fanatic completists, and an example of how to hose your fanbase . . . Leaving them with nowhere to turn but the internet.

Runner up: Jay-Z. After thousands had preordered it, Hova decides not to let iTunes distribute American Gangster because he says its not designed to be released as a group of singles. Come on, Hov. You still could’ve let iTunes do it, but sold it as a whole album download anyway. What do you have against Mac users? Well, at least he released a mixtape first.

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