Scott Tennent makes an emotional plea for music fans to ignore leaks over at Pretty Goes with Pretty. We’ve all seen variations of this argument before. The MPAA even made spots that echoed this sentiment. It’s heartfelt, but hopeless. Countless cliches could be used to describe what’s happened, but I’ll use this one: you can’t get the toothpaste back into the tube.
Tobias Carroll and I have been having a spirited back and forth over at his blog, the Scowl, where we’ve been discussing how best to incorporate leaks into the editorial calendar. I argue that leaks are an industry norm that need to be treated as such, rather than an aberrant behavior better ignored.
And given that release dates still have an effect — their relationship to touring comes to mind — I don’t know that there’s an easy way to make this work. Also worrisome is the fact that it essentially hands over control of the process to participants in what could at best be called an ethically grey activity, which, while arguably pragmatic, doesn’t necessarily seem like something to be encouraged.
As far as I’m concerned, so-called pirates have hijacked the discourse surrounding the music industry for over ten years. This “ethically grey activity” threatens to sunder an industry that failed to accept technology into its business model, and a consumer base that doesn’t seem to care one way or the other what happens to it.
Thinking about the music industry’s continued commitment to release dates got me thinking about the Royal Tenenbaums. You remember the scene where Eli Cash is on a show very similar to Charlie Rose and he says, “Wildcat…was written in a kind of obsolete vernacular”? I think release dates are part of the music industry’s obsolete vernacular. I’m guessing not many on the label side would admit it publicly, but they will eventually. Release dates just don’t matter to anyone anymore.