As I write this the #1 Amazon download is by a brooding, enigmatic rock star named Paul Westerberg who used to be the lead singer/songwriter for the not-so-brooding, enigmatic rock band The Replacements. (You know he’s brooding and enigmatic now because he never takes his shades off, especially when he sings songs with names like “Unsatisfied” whereas all the band photos from the 80’s have him bare-eyed.)
TuneCore is a digital distribution service that will, for a small fee, post your music to all the big “retail” music sites like iTunes, Amazon, eMusic. etc. For example, for a flat fee of $9.99 per year they will post a single song to all those stores.
Being a broody, enigmatic shmarty pants, 48 year old Westerberg smashed together more than 22 songs he one-man-band recorded in his basement into one honking 70 MB MP3 that careens from song to song, some overlapping, some cut off after six seconds and posted it using this special deal. Not that TuneCore is upset or anything, they devoted a special section of the site just for the Westerberg release called “49“. The name “49” btw comes from the sale price of the album which is $0.49 USD, supposedly 1 cent per minute. Unfortunately at 43 minutes 55 seconds it actually comes out to way more, more like 1.1157495256166982922201138519924 cents per minute. Bummer.
Yesterday, Westerberg’s manager earned his cut by calling Billboard magazine (who can’t afford to test their website on Firefox) to let them know that the album was out and that the only online retail music store that would “play along” with the $0.49 price is Amazon. Now that the song is the #1 paid download at Amazon, I’m sure iTunes and eMusic are more than relieved they took a pass on it.
Westerberg is not any Townes Van Zandt (he’s not god either so I guess that may be unfair) but on first listen the album is a great piece of music. I’m going to have to listen more to dig out what he was trying for lyrically and there could be a boatload of references to things like The Replacements that I’m missing. But musically it’s obvious that there’s decades of gigging at work here. He pulls off a lot of stuff that shows off that experience. The sound and fury of last few minutes is, I think, supposed to be ironic with it’s snippets of him covering the Beatles, Alice Cooper, Steppenwolf and the Partridge family. But fans of Strictly Kev and Plunderphonics will be less impressed by that particular passage because the bar is set so high by folks that have been doing cut-ups for decades. The whole thing works best for me when he isn’t trying to be “indie” and “edgy” and just sings his songs, which again, will take me a few listens before I’m ready to pass judgment.
If only he would have taken that $100,000 record company advance to record some real music and released with some real label and some real publicity firm and some real money. As it is, how will he ever, god help him, make his $9.99 back???