From the Barstool of the Publisher – April, 2007

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Now, see? That’s how you do it. It’s not that hard. You don’t have to get your panties in a bunch.

Last month, as Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche was in town to perform a solo show at Larimer Lounge in Denver (which, by the way, was awesome), Wilco’s new album SkyBlue Sky “leaked” over the internet but, unlike many of their cry-baby peers, the band didn’t flip out. They’re not going to sue people. They’re not screaming about the potential lost sales — in fact, they’re embracing it.

Wilco head-honcho Jeff Tweedy told Billboard the following day that while the leak may have some financial impact, the main thing is people are listening to the band’s tracks. “We feel very proud of our record and we want people to hear it. Ultimately, that’s the goal,” Tweedy told Billboard.

Wilco bassist John Stirratt concurred withTweedy, tellingBillboard, “Frankly, I would like to have people get a head start on knowing the material before we come to whatever town they live in.”

Then, in a move that epitomizes Wilco’s non-chalance toward the whole issue, the band decided to offer the album as a stream on its website. Now, anyone with an internet connection can hear the album, and from the wealth of reviews, blogs and forum discussions about Sky Blue Sky, it looks like people are checking out the album with incredible fervor.

While there are probably bean counters out there who will disagree, I think that this is the business model that is eventually going to be taken on by more and more acts, and their labels. (And, even if the bean counters do disagree, I don’t really care, because people who deal with numbers for a living are probably mental anyway.)

True, the first week’s sales of Sky Blue Sky, when it eventually does come out on May 15, will probably be diminished by the leak, but as the band launches its summer tour, my theory is that more and more people will be likely to purchase Wilco tickets, buy T-shirts and buy the full release, in addition to their downloaded copy.

I want to see more bands and labels start doing this, and maybe even improve on the idea. Leak the albums early, but then make the lyrics and a promo DVD available with the purchase of the album. Essentially give people a reason to buy it, beyond just the sounds. Make it fun!

It’s the nature of the business these days and record labels can continue to get their asses kicked and cry about it, or they can start changing the way they do business.

We’ll see you at the shows.

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