GOOD Fridays, a Twisted Fantasy, and How Kanye West Demonstrated the Surprisingly Progressive Nature of Record Labels - Page 2
West, who is signed to Def Jam Records and oversees the work of G.O.O.D. Music (a subsidiary of Def Jam that stands for “Getting Out Our Dreams”), used the G.F. project in place of the iTunes “Countdown” release structure, wherein artists release 3-5 single tracks prior to the full album’s debut.
That Def Jam permitted West to forego the income that an iTunes structured, pre-release plan would have generated is significant. Moreover, as mentioned in the NY Times, West has not been highly visible in the weeks leading up to release date, choosing to do little in print media or on television; the exceptions being performances on the MTV Music Video Awards and Saturday Night Live, in addition to a forgettable, awkward interview on the Today Show with Matt Lauer.
By harnessing the potential of the social web, West and his team were able to circumvent traditional media. A popular music website, Pitchfork, compared West’s strategy to Radiohead’s approach for In Rainbows, a project that garnered attention for the band’s independent recording and marketing of the project.
West is a challenging artist, projecting an arrogance that, when not in the context of his music, makes him unlikeable. But he is an innovator, a conceptual, musical genius, who, with the support of his label, has succeeded in straddling the divide between the old and new business of music. He has demonstrated the seamless, communicative power (no pun intended) of social media to promote his art and eliminate any filter between his thoughts and the public’s point of reception, while recording an album that demands attention, beginning to end, in an era dominated by singles. He did all of this with the backing of a major record label, Def Jam.
Record labels are adapting to the new landscape. The future of music is not about label or no label; the future of music is about the ambition of art, about public communication, and about a willingness by creators and their financial backers to effectively collaborate. Thank you Kanye and thank you Def Jam for demonstrating how to do just that.
(Kanye West Portrait by George Condo)