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June 2, 2011 11:04 pm

‘Kaisers’ predict riot of interest in bespoke album

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Kaiser Chiefs

Crowd pleaser: Ricky Wilson, the lead singer of the indie rock band Kaiser Chiefs performs at Reading festival

Fans of Kaiser Chiefs, the British indie rock stalwarts, will on Friday be invited to create a bespoke version of their new album – choosing tracklisting and cover design – in the latest attempt by the record industry to adjust to a shift in buying habits among music fans.

The band, which has enjoyed success with songs such as “I Predict a Riot” and the chart-topping album Yours Truly, Angry Mob, released its new album The Future is Medieval not via iTunes but through a website that went live at 7am. The launch is a collaboration between Universal Music and the advertising agency Wieden and Kennedy which has managed the development of the website and the viral launch, keeping much of the music industry in the dark.

On the site, kaiserchiefs.com, fans are able to select 10 tracks from 20 new songs and create their own version of the album by choosing the playlist and designing the cover. They can download the album for £7.50.

However, the band has also allowed fans the opportunity to post their versions of the album on Facebook and Twitter – and make money in the process. For every copy of their own version of the album fans sell, they receive £1. All sales take place via the band’s website using the online payment system PayPal. Only eight sales are required for a fan to start making a profit.

Ricky Wilson, the band’s lead singer who came up with the idea, says: “I’d been looking at how people buy music and I thought ‘Well if that’s what you want, we’ll give it to you’. If people want to buy tracks, let them buy tracks. If people don’t want to buy the album you’ve put together but just buy the tracks they like, all right.”

Between 2007 and 2010, revenue from digital music downloads has boomed within an otherwise falling market that has been hit by piracy and a decline in high street record shops. In January HMV Group announced that it would close 40 stores in 2011.

Robert Ashcroft, chief executive of PRS for Music, which collects and distributes public performance royalties, said: “Royalties from digital music services have grown 173 per cent since 2007, reaching £26.5m in 2010. In comparison, royalty collections from the sale of CDs, declined 27 per cent in the same period and have been on a downward trend for some years.”

“You’ve got to embrace being digital, but the only problem with being digital is that it’s not very tactile, there’s no ownership over it,” says Wilson. “It’s not just that you get your own artwork and your own tracklisting, it’s the experience. The experience of making the album does make the untangible tangible.” This is not the first time a band has attempted to experiment with the way in which music is sold. In 2007, Radiohead released In Rainbows, a download-only album for which fans were invited to pay only as much as they felt it was worth. In 2008, dance band Groove Armada split with Jive Records and signed a one-year deal with the drinks brand Bacardi to produce music for adverts as well as a four-track EP that was distributed free. 

The band hopes that the launch will encourage a reconsideration of music’s value. “The culture we’re in now with music being shared freely and everyone posting different tracks on blogs has really encouraged the disposability of music,” says James Sandom of Supervision Management, which manages Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand among others.

“I think it’s really important that we as record labels help bring the value back to music,” says Jim Chancellor, head of Fiction Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, who has been working on the Kaiser Chiefs launch. “It’s becoming harder and harder. It’s not just the general perception, its retailers trying to push prices down.”

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