Thursday, November 05, 2009
Pearl Jam and Incentives
A while back Dan wrote about how the most recent R.E.M. album actually sounded like the band we knew in college, rather than the dirge of their more recent work. The new Pearl Jam album, too, marks an attempt to return to the Pearl Jam "sound" instead of quiet noodling that was the norm for their last few albums.
Why did Pearl Jam suddenly try to become popular again? Because their record contract is over, of course. They signed a deal with Target to distribute their album, bypassing other retailers (although there is an opt out for independent music stores apparently, if there are any of them left) and letting the band earn a bigger cut of any sales. It was interesting that Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails gave away their most recent releases while Pearl Jam decided to charge their fans for it.
It would be a new world if rock bands had incentives to sell the most albums and release them in the most efficient way possible. The "old style" deals where the band was signed for a lot of money up front for a number of albums is going the way of other dying "old media" - into the wastebasket. There isn't enough money left in the system with CD sales drying up to support these sorts of dis-incentives.
I do find it almost the definition of irony that Pearl Jam, a band that made their name with their fights against "the man", now pretty much is up for giving the people what they want now that they need to go out and earn their rock star lifestyle.
Those are interesting incentives.