Pearl Jam Shows How Giving Away Music Can Help Sales

from the yet-again dept

Over and over again, people have tried to explain to the recording industry that there are plenty of good business models that embrace file sharing. The industry, however, despite the evidence, continues to insist that if you give away your music for free, there simply are no business models, and music will cease to exist. Pearl Jam became an early supporter of embracing the internet, and found it to work well. Their latest efforts should drive home that point. Austin Fatheree wrote in, noting: "I received my iTunes "new Music Tuesday" email today and Pearl Jam's new single "World Wide Suicide" was the #1 album. This was interesting to me because I had downloaded the single for free (as a 256kb/s DRM free mp3) from Pearl Jam's official site two weeks ago. The "album" on iTunes is $.99 and includes a b-Side that will be on their album that will be released May 2nd. They also are pre-selling their album on their website. $14.00 plus shipping and handling you get the CD, a bonus CD of a rare live show from 1993, and the ability to download the album at Midnight May 2nd as a DRM free CD. For all the complaining the RIAA does it looks like there is another, another, another, another way then treating your customers like criminals." Indeed, this is interesting for a variety of reasons. First, it shows that even if you give away the music for free, there are opportunities to sell it -- and people may still buy it. Second, the rest of the deal for the album shows exactly what so many people have claimed for years: bundling other items and benefits with the "album" makes it a worthwhile buy.

Of course, some will respond that Pearl Jam can do this because they're "Pearl Jam" -- a big name with a huge following. However, we've also seen less well known artists succeed using similar strategies. Also, we've seen brand new bands, like the Arctic Monkeys, become huge success stories by embracing the internet early on to build up the kind of fame that would allow them to do something like Pearl Jam has now done. In other words, the two (conflicting) arguments we hear against the idea that bands can make money by embracing music sharing (1. big bands would never do it because it cuts into their money making machine and 2. it would never work for new bands) don't seem to hold. Meanwhile, the RIAA and their counterparts around the world continue to insist that file sharing is destroying their business.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 10:48am

    First!

    Eddie Veder is a midget.

     

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  2.  
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    David Schwartz, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 10:52am

    It seems as if this idea is starting to "tip". It may well be that we will start to see a flood of the new paradigm-embracing products/services. *keeping fingers crossed, but not holding breath*

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 11:07am

    David - Here's a tip that provides you a new paradigm that I think you should embrace:

    Using "tip", "paradigm", and "embracing products" in one post makes you look like an ass.

     

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  4.  
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    Mousky, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 11:26am

    The RIAA is right ;)

    File sharing is destroying the business of RIAA members: it's making them obsolete. or at the very least, it is making them not as important as they once used to be. Does anyone think that music will disappear if the RIAA disappears?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 11:49am

    MySpace Music

    Don't forget about the bands who release their music for free on MySpace to promote it. The MySpace culture eats that stuff right up. Some bands have decent sized followings, and they've never needed a studio.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 12:42pm

    MySpace and culture should never be mentioned in the same sentence. MySpace is what happens in the absence of culture.

     

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  7.  
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    Adam, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 12:50pm

    myspace

    "MySpace and culture should never be mentioned in the same sentence. MySpace is what happens in the absence of culture."

    agreed, myspace is a disorganized, disjointed mess of a website/community

    sure there's tons of bands getting exposure on myspace - does anyone care? not really...

     

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  8.  
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    Evil Bastard, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 12:56pm

    Free Live Music

    King Crimson / Robert Fripp has recently embraced this model. The new website

    www.dgmlive.com

    has weekly downloads from Fripp's live archives. You can download complete shows in MP3 ($9.95) or FLAC($12.95). This is the WAV of the future.

     

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  9.  
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    mike shizzle, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Free Live Music

    "This is the WAV of the future."

    You suck.

     

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  10.  
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    Bitches Ain't Shit, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Re: Free Live Music by mike shizzle

    You all suck!

     

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  11.  
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    Josh Wardell, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 1:35pm

    Its because PJ are humans

    They have been "cool" about sharing music for a lot longer than you think.

    And don't forget unlike most other bands, PJ not only publicly allows non-intrustive taping at all their live shows, the past few years they have been selling soundboard bootlegs of every show. In fact when you purchase them, the (again, non-drmed plain mp3) whole show is immediately downloadable from their site, hours after the concert.

    There are the few bands that are about the music, and want nothing more to share it with everyone and hope you will return the respect, then there are the money-hungry bands that want all they can get and ride the back of the RIAA.

     

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  12.  
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    Jim, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 1:35pm

    Bad analysis

    Mike

    Your analysis seems to be that free music generates buzz, so the new business model is to give music away for free in order to generate buzz.

    The music industry is full of shrewd people; their business is based on limiting your access to music to the music that they control. Pearl Jam, Creative Commons, file sharing and podcasting all undermine the music industry's ability to limit your access music

    What I wonder is why you or anybody else cares WTF the music industry does anymore? They have been force-feeding you pablum since the day you were born. Now we have the ability to disconnect and see the real world and realize that most of the music that has ever been created is not controlled by the music industry.

    The music industry isn't stupid for protecting their turf; music fans are stupid if they would rather complain about the status quo than listen to the wealth of music that is freely available.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 1:54pm

    Music Industry

    In case you haven't noticed, you can get pretty much any song you want without paying for it. F the music industry!

     

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  14.  
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    Josh, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 1:57pm

    Re: myspace

    your lack of education in regard to what defines a culture shines through. Myspace, though off the wall in many ways, is indeed a form of culture and it would be an ignorant statement to ignore what has happened in 4 years online with that website.

    If you don't like something, that doesn't automatically make it a non-culture or stupid--THINK.

     

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  15.  
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    Mike (profile), Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Bad analysis

    The music industry is full of shrewd people; their business is based on limiting your access to music to the music that they control. Pearl Jam, Creative Commons, file sharing and podcasting all undermine the music industry's ability to limit your access music

    Right. And the point I'm making is that this is a dying business model that puts them at risk, and suggesting on ways they can build their business to much greater levels.

    What I wonder is why you or anybody else cares WTF the music industry does anymore? They have been force-feeding you pablum since the day you were born. Now we have the ability to disconnect and see the real world and realize that most of the music that has ever been created is not controlled by the music industry.

    Um. We're analysts. That's what we do. Based on your logic, we shouldn't write anything, because who are we to analyze.

    Trying to suggest a smarter path to the industry seems sensible.

    The music industry isn't stupid for protecting their turf; music fans are stupid if they would rather complain about the status quo than listen to the wealth of music that is freely available.

    We're not "complaining about the status quo," but suggesting better business models for the existing players who have resisted them.

     

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  16.  
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    Frankie, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 3:10pm

    RE: myspace/Bad analysis

    Well said, Josh and Mike. You know, I was going to say the same things.

     

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  17.  
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    SG, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 5:11pm

    It's all about the music!

    Pearl Jam has long been an anti-corporate or anti-corrupt kind of band. This is why they left Sony Records the day their eight album contract was completed. They're now on a smaller record label that is giving them a lot of the creative control and freedoms they've always wanted.

    For Pearl Jam it's about getting their music and message out there, it's not about selling millions of records. They've got nothing to lose this far in their careers. They're trying new things and the results for them don't always have to be huge successes. If they break new ground and have success, that's just bonus for them.

    I guess the point I'm making is that the internet is an awesome tool for any musician; big or small.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 5:36pm

    Re: Re: myspace

    Ok, we'll call MySpace the culture of the simple-minded assclowns. Is that better?

    Now go back to trying to get some gay guy with a fake female account to add you as a friend...

     

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  19.  
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    Jimmy Z, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 6:04pm

    Re: It's all about the music!

    Yeah they deserve a pat on the back for their open-minded-ness. On the other hand, they deserve a kick in the nuts for the lack of passion on their last few albums. :/

     

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  20.  
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    Derek, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 8:46pm

    If u don't know, now u know

    pEaRl jAm has been breaking the mold about how music should be made for years.

    Examples:
    1) & most obvious TICKETMASTER
    2) Never playing the same live set each night
    3) Releasing book legs of live concerts
    3) Now a free download

    More bands need to be about the the art instead of the $$$$$$$$$$
    playing great music = a great following

    To PJ
    Doing
    it
    the
    right
    way

     

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  21.  
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    Mr Rat, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 10:26pm

    Re: Its because PJ are humans

    its not just because they are humans - its because they are musicians - mass marketing creations like the American Idiots dont have a chance in hell in an environment where you not only need to be able to play an instrument but might actually also need to write some music... I say good on them and the plan has worked cos I'm going to their website right now to check it out

     

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  22.  
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    Jammer, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 3:59am

    Re:

    Very mature.

     

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  23.  
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    progrocker, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 7:50am

    Will free music help sale?

    “Giving away music can help sales�. I agree to an extent. Here is a example of my experience. The band Threshold, allows a free download of there song “Mission Profile�. When I heard that song I feel in love with it. So I went down to my local record store and seen the price of the CD was 18.95$. For 9 songs. I stood there looking at the CD for at least 20 minutes pondering if I should buy it or not. I did pick up the CD. But it limited me to only getting that one CD and not wanting to browse other artists.

    So getting the mp3 free from there site, I got introduced to awesome band Now buying the media was discoursing.

     

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  24.  
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    Louis, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 8:34am

    Pearl Jam is a Great Band...

    ... and they have a large following, despite the fact that for the last few years I have not once seen a Pearl Jam music video on MTV. It makes one think...

     

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  25.  
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    Deddick, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 8:43am

    If u don't know, now u know by Derek

    p34r7 j4m has been making mold music and should be fed to bears

    Examples:
    1) & most obvious CIRCUSTRUCK!
    2) Never playing in Russia!
    3) Releasing book with legs!
    3) 4!

    More bands need to be about the the $rt instead of the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ (LINUX RULz! M$ DRuLz!)$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    playing great music = me writing like an idiot

    To PJ
    Thanks
    for
    the
    three
    way

     

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  26.  
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    PearlJamDefeatsAll, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 9:52am

    They are immortal.

    Hey Louis...when was the last time you saw ANY music video on MTV? Do yourself a favor and stop wasting your time watching it.

    Well, it seems that most of the replies to this insightful and thought-provoking article have been from kids who just got back from McDonald's and are already bored with their Happy Meal toy, and being that I haven't been one of those kids for 20 or so years I'll leave some real words of wisdom.

    The people that whine about Pearl Jam are upset because for some reason the band continues to put out albums even though they're "not on MTV" and "everything has sucked after Ten". Well, too bad for you. They rock, sell out every show they play, and will eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame. At this point, if you don't like Pearl Jam, just don't consider yourself an "angry" fan. Don't say "I like Ten, and Vs. was alright, but man, Vitalogy just sucked...I AM a fan though". Guess what, you're not. You only like the early stuff, so that means you're not a fan. The word "fan" comes from "fanatic"...did you know that? Probably not, because you watch too much MTV (and it's not just you Louis). I like the video for Van Halen's "Right Here, Right Now", but I am definitely not a Van Halen fan.

    The other people that are mad about Pearl Jam's success are leftover STP fans that just don't want to admit that Scott Weiland's heroine addiction was (or is, I can't keep up) more important to him than keeping STP alive. The dude's a screw-up. He screwed his band, his future, and his fans. Oh wait though, I forgot about Velvet Revolver. Now there's an overdose just waiting to happen.

    To sum all of this up, just embrace the fact that Pearl Jam is a worldwide success and no one can keep them down. No one has yet and no one will. You can't defeat them. They stomp over everyone and everything. They're the best live act in the world. It doesn't mean you have to listen to their new stuff, but just accept the truth and move on.

     

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  27.  
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    Jim, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 10:11am

    Re: Bad analysis

    Mike

    Don't hold your breath for the music industry to change its ways....for a dying business model, the industry is making tons of money and has managed to avoid getting killed off by MP3's and the Internet for a decade. They gripe about declining sales, but if you look at their numbers, they are usually talking about items shipped. A lot of the decline in shipments is probably the result of them shipping less and getting fewer items shipped back because of better supply management. Music does face competition from other forms of entertainment, but the industry makes money from licensing music for video games, DVDs, too.

    As an analyst, you ought to come up with something better than to suggest that, because Pearl Jam can give stuff away and still make money, the music industry is dying and should build their business models on file sharing.

    Where are the music companies successfully using the file-sharing appoach? Take a look at Magnatune's financial info, for example:
    http://blogs.magnatune.com/buckman/2004/12/summary_of_magn.html

    I don't think the RIAA is worrying too much about that.

    If you want to suggest better business models for the music industry, find some real examples. We're 10 years into online music, and the music industry seems to be doing a pretty good job of guarding their turf.

    These are great times for music fans - there's more free music available than ever before, and access to a broader variety, too.

    But building a music business around giving away free music, that doesn't involve limiting how people use the music, that doesn't involve suing grandmas, that doesn't involve force-feeding people lowest-common denominator artists, has proven to be pretty difficult for companies to do.

    How about analyzing that problem?

     

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  28.  
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    Jim, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 11:21am

    Re: You are

    You are an idiot.

     

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  29.  
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    Kelly, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 11:33am

    pearl jam

    pearl jam has been giving away music for years or giving it away at ridiculously low prices this is nothing new its just another way their doing it come one come all even the media jump on the pearl jam bandwaggon! are they they popular enough to like again? are they popular enough to be cool again?

     

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  30.  
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    Mike (profile), Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 11:56am

    Re: Re: Bad analysis

    As an analyst, you ought to come up with something better than to suggest that, because Pearl Jam can give stuff away and still make money, the music industry is dying and should build their business models on file sharing.

    My argument wasn't "because Pearl Jam...". This was just another example showing that it is possible to make a business out of doing this -- despite what the industry is saying.

    Sorry, this post wasn't supposed to be the complete answer to everything, but just the latest in a series that explains the issue.

    The point is to look at the trends, and note that the industry *is* looking at a crisis point. Not yet, but it's coming. It's not hard to see it. And then to suggest that there are ways out of it that don't involve treating everyone like criminals.

    If you want to suggest better business models for the music industry, find some real examples. We're 10 years into online music, and the music industry seems to be doing a pretty good job of guarding their turf.

    I am finding real examples. The examples may be small, because they're just starting out, but they're adding up.

    And "guarding their turf" is exactly the wrong way to look at things right now. There's a tremendous opportunity for the industry. They shouldn't be guarding their turf... they should be expanding!

    These are great times for music fans - there's more free music available than ever before, and access to a broader variety, too.

    Yup, and the industry is suing a bunch of folks for listening to music they like, and are putting rootkits on computers without letting people know, decreasing security.

    Yup, great time to be a music fan.

    But building a music business around giving away free music, that doesn't involve limiting how people use the music, that doesn't involve suing grandmas, that doesn't involve force-feeding people lowest-common denominator artists, has proven to be pretty difficult for companies to do.

    Has it? The point of this post and others was to show that there are ways to make money. No one has tried it on a larger scale yet, but the examples of it succeeding on a small scale show that it can work.

    Not only that, it will have to work, because as much as the RIAA is "guarding its turf," it's going to keep getting chipped away.

     

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  31.  
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    Derek, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 12:29pm

    Re: If u don't know, now u know by Derek

    Hey Littledick, don't hate because your mommy didn't love you enough. Three facts about the guy who is Deddick...

    1) & most obvious is 27 and lives with Mom & Dad.
    2) Creeds fan club president
    3) Thinks Pink Floyd is one guy
    4) Hasn't been laid since the bicentennial

    If u don't know, now u know.........

     

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  32.  
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    scott sweeney, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 1:54pm

    well

    For those who doubt the myspace/purevolume culture of giving away free music, I would point to the bands Linkin Park and Fall Out Boy as examples of bands who have sold millions of CDs by using the 'dijointed' and 'cluttered' free audio marketplaces like Myspace, purevolume and the now defunct mp3.com. My band gives music away for free, and it DID us and people DO care.

    And secondly to the person who said Pearl Jam left Sony to go to a small label, J record, their new label, is owned and distributed by Sony. All they did was leave Epic. They are still a Sony band. And have world wide major label distribution.

    To comment about the original thought, although the free factor may have helped, the reason Pearl Jam's 'album' sold so well is because the B side to that disc was a new song you couldn't download for free. And pearl jam fans a crazy.

    if you take just the single, and put nothing else on it, it sells 700% percent less. I promise you

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Re: Bad analysis

    You are the biggest idiot

     

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  34.  
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    Louis, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 4:15pm

    Re: They are immortal. by PearlJamDefeatsAll

    Dude, why are you so angry? No one here is arguing with you.

    My point was, Pearl Jam is a great band despite the fact that they're not on MTV cribs showing off the 22 inch chrome wheels on their second Hummer.

    BTW. You shouldn´t immediately make presumptions about people you´ve never met in person. The only reason I watch MTV is because its the only (and slight in that) infusion of English television matter here in the South of Germany where I work as a Defense Contractor for European Aerospace.

    And even though Euro MTV is liberally spiced with degenerate American drivel such as Cribs and, lord help me, Date My Mom, every now and again it supports German music with plays from bands such as Seeed, Oomph or Rammstein, just to name a few.

    I'd gladly brave MTV just for the chance of seeing a Rammstein music video.

    (I know...I`m probably painting my face now with a big bullseye and a pointing "Flame me" sign)

     

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  35.  
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    George, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 6:23pm

    DIO RULES!

     

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  36.  
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    Skins, Mar 24th, 2006 @ 8:51am

    LEVY

    You guys should check out what the band LEVY is doing. SUCKING.

    Worst band ever.

    Story goes: They JUST realized how bad they really were and try to make a sexy video to turn some heads. Sounds good right?

    Nope. They put the lead singer, UGLY KID, in a sex tape with a hot model. He is SO UGLY.

     

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  37.  
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    Phil Eldred, Mar 25th, 2006 @ 9:03am

    The funniest part about this whole business has been watching record companies slowly realize that they are a completely unessential aspect of the music business. Forget about the fact that PJ happen to have landed a number one sales spot even though they gave their music away for free. The fact is, as anyone who knows anything about the music industry is well aware of, artists don't make money off of music sales. Rather, music sales only serve to stimulate ticket sales for concerts, which in turn translate into merchandising sales and vendor cuts, which are where bands really make their money. Take PJ again, they havan't had a platinum disc for almost a decade, yet they are all millionaires due to their concerts. Thus, for bands, giving the music away always pays off, even if not reflected in album sales. The only people who get rich off of albums are the record companies. UNtil recently, record companies have also played the role of distributing music to radio stations for air exposure. However, that role has also changed, threatening the end for the big music companies. Eeventually the record labels will be looking for a government bail out, just like the airlines.

     

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  38.  
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    solace, Mar 29th, 2006 @ 5:53pm

    J Records...

    Pearl Jam has long been an anti-corporate or anti-corrupt kind of band. This is why they left Sony Records the day their eight album contract was completed. They're now on a smaller record label that is giving them a lot of the creative control and freedoms they've always wanted.


    actualy J records, while a smaller label, is still a major label under RCA/Arista. and if you aren't aware, BMG & Sony merged last year so Pearl Jam are in fact under the Sony umbrella yet again (they weren't when they signed to J though).

     

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  39.  
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    michael, Mar 30th, 2006 @ 10:09am

    Re:

    and your a fucking moron

     

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  40.  
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    deprecated, Apr 3rd, 2006 @ 2:04am

    Re: If u don't know, now u know by Derek

    Deddick,

    Inspired!

     

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  41.  
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    sunni triangulator, Apr 21st, 2006 @ 1:36pm

    pj

    What has PJ really changed? You still have to pay money for their crappy albums, including all their live shows. You still have to pay too much to see one of their shows. George W. Bush is still president. Pearl Jam is a pawn in the record companies' attempt to retain control over the music industry. But if you fork over a bunch of dough to Pearl Jam, it's cool because they rebelled against everything, right?

     

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  42.  
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    Bryant McCrary, Apr 23rd, 2006 @ 2:06pm

    Free music

    This is not the first time Pearl Jam has challenged the corporate model or status quo in the music business. They continue to challenge and change the way the music business should be run. Sharing music files on the internet can only help, not hurt the music industry. What it does is create exposure and a buzz for the band whether it's a big one small one. Small one's need it more than the big ones because half the battle for them is getting exposure. By allowing music to be shared for free it holds the music industry accountable for the music it releases. If it's good music then people will buy it, if it's crap then they won't. Only music listeners/buys can control the quality of the music being produced. Pearl Jam is so refreshing because they refuse to be dictated by the music industry.

     

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  43.  
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    Bryant McCrary, Apr 23rd, 2006 @ 2:12pm

    Free music

    This is not the first time Pearl Jam has challenged the corporate model or status quo in the music business. They continue to challenge and change the way the music business should be run. Sharing music files on the internet can only help, not hurt the music industry. What it does is create exposure and a buzz for the band whether it's a big one small one. Small one's need it more than the big ones because half the battle for them is getting exposure. By allowing music to be shared for free it holds the music industry accountable for the music it releases. If it's good music then people will buy it, if it's crap then they won't. Only music listeners/buys can control the quality of the music being produced. Pearl Jam is so refreshing because they refuse to be dictated by the music industry.

     

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  44.  
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    mabel, May 10th, 2006 @ 3:12pm

    anonymous coward

    Your a tool!

     

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  45.  
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    Roger, Dec 6th, 2006 @ 1:01am

    Pearl Jewelry

    Pearl rings are the symbol of trust and commitment. There are many alternatives available but the most accepted is a single large pearl having bases in a yellow gold or platinum. For more info about Freshwater Coin Pearl Jewelry visit http://www.preciousglow.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    bee, Feb 23rd, 2007 @ 1:31am

    Want to f*ck Eddie Vedder

    He is unbelievably sexy and gorgeous. I would bed him in a second.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Ritani, Jul 13th, 2009 @ 12:37pm

    Re:

    DIO Rules? Holy 80's! I grew up in the 80's and DIO was horrible back then, and certainly hasn't improved over the years!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    engagement rings, Nov 23rd, 2010 @ 10:10pm

    reply

    I just read through the entire post of yours and it was quite good. This is a great post thanks for sharing this informative information. I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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