King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Polygondwanaland — Next Level Self-Release Game
“We didn’t really think this through.”
It comes across a little like regret, doesn’t it? But I don’t read it that way. I read that from the perspective of a band who is doing just what they want to do.
In case you missed it, Australia’s hardest working nutcases, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, have released LP4 for 2017 and it’s free.
Very, very free.
They’ve made available for download high bitrate MP3s, as well as hi-res artwork, WAV CD masters with metadata information and vinyl masters ready for pressing. “It’s not ours, It’s yours. If you want to start a label, employ your mates and ship out some records, go for it.”
Within hours of the news, (a few days before the release of the files,) crowdfunding campaigns had been set up to get the money to press records for all interested parties. People had indeed started labels. Existing labels put up pre-orders for a rainbow of vinyl offerings. People are now swapping knowledge on the best way to master for cassette. “Anyone who needs help with their dubbing game, hit me up.” Some people are selling at cost. Some making a profit. Some shipping worldwide. Some only being delivered via meetups in capital cities. The private Polygondwana Fan Pressing facebook group is a hive of excitement and pre-orders, and the KGATLW subreddit is kicking right off. Which version are you getting? Back cover design submissions are closing on Monday (one of the things that was not supplied ….. though, the art assets were.) Discogs is being furiously updated. And everyone’s wondering how the hell the completists are going to get a copy of every version of this thing?
Jesus Christ. What have these guys done? Is this what anarchy is?
There are many parallels to be drawn with Radiohead’s 2007 In Rainbows release. They broke the mould on content distribution and monetisation at the time. They disrupted the status quo, pissed off some old people, got mad Millennial points, (were they a thing then? Whatever the equivalent was,) and moved a ton of units. You could see that it was a very intentional and politically motivated move. A statement on the state of the industry at a time when statements like these were super important. The fact that it netted a butt load of cash for them and their publisher was a big bonus and proved their point completely. That things can change.
Here, we see a band who is just doing their thing. I don’t believe it’s political. If anything it seems completely natural and not super surprising for these guys. I can imagine the idea being discussed over a few beers. Why not give it away? We’re making some money on the road. We’ve released 3 albums this year that are selling well enough. We’ve got one more to release before the year is out. We’re not in it to be millionaires. Here peeps, just have this one and do whatever you like with it. Let’s see what happens.
But, but, but! …… What about everyone else involved, huh? A band is not an island, right? Do these guys have a publisher? Are the writers under an exclusive publishing agreement? How are the mechs finding their way home on the myriad of physical reproductions? Is the band signing off on any audio reproduction licenses for AMCOS? And what about their label(s)? Is this an Option album under their deal? Was there an advance for this record? Was the initial advance supposed to cover this record? Who’s putting it on Spotify? Can I do that? These are the questions that have institutionalised-me looking nervously around the room for the jowl-quivering industry dinosaur who’s IP has just been thrown in the trash. They can’t just do something like that, can they? Surely not! It’s not how this works … It’s not how any of this works! Have they thought this through at all!?
And what will happen when these worlds collide? What will ultimately happen to fans who want to use the album as prescribed? Who want to put it up, in full, on Youtube, or as a soundtrack to their Minecraft Let’s Play branch mining time-lapse? As at writing, InGrooves, on behalf of ATO, have issued copyright infringement notices to people who have uploaded the album to Youtube. “HOW DARE THEY!” cry the people. “THIS IS FOR US! BACK OFF BIG BAD LABEL MAN! YOUR TIME IS UP! YOU’RE NOT WELCOME HERE!!”
So it’s Us vs. the Man again. But this time, We’ve put away the eye patch and we’ve got a note from Mum saying that it’s totally cool, so back off, alright?
I love Gizz’s idea and am intrigued to see how the post-streaming industry reacts. Is this the beginning of another revolution? Are we gonna be seeing carve out clauses for the act-of-blatant-fiscal-disrespect Option LP? OR how about this? All the vinyl pressing kiddies setup smart contracts on a Paypal platform to send a few bucks back to the band direct for each sale? The band is basically mobilising an army of crowdsourcing, SocMed savy, nu-industry types who grew up suckling at the teat of startup culture to press, market and distribute physical media themselves. For themselves. Already, the all-you-can-eat media consumption styled streaming services are being curated by the Kings of the Playlist (who ever they are.) They’re not Us either.
Is the middle man finally screwed this time? Are King Gizzard pushing the industry towards some kind of fan/band singularity and bringing an end to labelman oppression? IS THIS IT! …. To be honest. I don’t think they thought it through that much.
Good on em.
But pray for the completists.