The latest artist to try the “pay what you want” album release idea is Girl Talk, a club DJ whose real name is Gregg Gillis. His latest compilation of remixes and mashups is called Feed The Animals, and is available through a link on his MySpace page or through the website for his record label Illegal Art. Regardless of what you pay, you get a zip file of the entire record as high-quality mp3 files (320kbps, which is pretty good). If you pay five bucks or more, you can download uncompressed FLAC files, and $10 gets you the files as well as a copy of the CD when it comes out in September. This reminds me of the recent Mission: Metallica offer.
If you offer to pay nothing for the download, you get sent to a page with a form that asks you why you are paying nothing, and then gives you a series of check boxes, including:
— I may donate later
— I can’t afford to pay
— I don’t really like Girl Talk
— I don’t believe in paying for music
— I have already purchased this album
— I don’t value music made from sampling
— I am part of the press, radio, or music industry
— Other reasons
It’s interesting that one of the options is “I don’t value music made from sampling.” As the name of Girl Talk’s record label suggests, sampling and mashups of the kind he is known for are in some ways on the edge of what is legally permitted (and have been the subject of numerous lawsuits in the past, including the one over DJ Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, which was a remix of the Beatles White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album). Some might think it’s a little presumptuous to charge for music that is essentially just a remix of other people’s music, which some Girl Talk fans may already have paid for.
Remix artists like Girl Talk also thrive on using current hits, and the longer it takes for those tracks to be heard, the more likely it is that the samples are going to seem outdated. The artist said as much in a recent interview with Pitchfork (hat tip to Wired for the link):
“First of all, there’s a lot of current pop and hip-hop sampled on the album, and I wanted to get it out there as soon as possible [and] as soon as it hits the internet, anyone who reads the internet can get it for free if they want to. So why not tap in and let them actually take a step back and think about it, and maybe offer some money?”
Girl Talk also said that seeing Nine Inch Nails release an entire album for free and then still get radio play has changed the way he thinks about his music to some extent: “They released an album, and I don’t even think they put out a CD for that last one,” he told Pitchfork. “But they have a song that hit mainstream rock radio from that album. Which is great. So I think we’re definitely moving into a time where you won’t need a physical CD very soon.”