Kristin Hersh Turns An Album Into A Book

from the reasons-to-buy dept

Back in 2007, musician Kristin Hersh was one of the first musicians we wrote about who had put in place a “tiered” support offering, which these days are becoming quite common. It looks like she’s continuing to break new ground with experimental business models as well. Her latest album is actually going to be released as a book via Harper Collins’ The Friday Project. The book/album, called Crooked, will basically be a really nice book, including full color artwork, lyrics, essays by Kristin about each song on the album and (of course) download codes to get all sorts of additional content, including stems for remixing and track-by-track audio commentary. This seems like a good way to give her fans an actual reason to buy the scarce good (the book), rather than just demanding they pick up a piece of obsolete plastic, like some artists.

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Comments on “Kristin Hersh Turns An Album Into A Book”

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Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Could you elaborate?

Why do you suppose a musician would find putting out a print book via a book publisher to be attractive while a novelist would find skipping his book publisher to put out an ebook with music to be attractive?

Murakami Releases His Own eBook Without His Publisher | Techdirt: “Popular Japanese author Ryu Murakami announced that he will be self-publishing his next novel directly to the iPad, sidestepping his publisher in favor of working directly with a software publishing company on this eBook. Murakami’s eBook, ‘The Singing Whale,’ will include video content and music by composer Ryuichi Sakamoto that will hopefully leverage some of the strengths of the new platform.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Could you elaborate?

It’s rather interesting the mirroring of these two cases.

The musician is creating a book, because of the many possible offerings that this physical medium can provide.

Likewise, the writer is offering an electronic product, because of the benefits that digital platforms have over paper products.

All-in-all, it’s mostly about understanding that your product is not simply “a book” or “an album”, but an overarching form of entertainment.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Could you elaborate?

Why do you suppose a musician would find putting out a print book via a book publisher to be attractive while a novelist would find skipping his book publisher to put out an ebook with music to be attractive?

It depends on what each is trying to accomplish. Both are actually trying to create new kinds of works of art, and in doing so, they’re each bundling different scarce and infinite elements together. The method by which they bring it to market may differ slightly, but conceptually the ideas are quite similar.

Jesse von Doom (user link) says:

Re: Re: Could you elaborate?

Exactly right. I’m the designer of the Crooked book, Kristin’s co-manager, and I lead her CASH Music nonprofit. The point of this was to create another work of art in a tangible format — something that could be held and provide value outside of simply being ripped to iTunes/similar.

And the difference between an author and a musician — what we were trying to do with Crooked was make something that couldn’t be done digitally. It’s a 64 page art book with full-bleed photos throughout, a companion to the record that wouldn’t translate to digital. Liberating in a lot of ways, just as I imagine it must be for an author to take their work away from a published book and allow it to immediately go to an e-reader.

Different goals that seem almost opposing, but they’re actually both just embracing the art and bringing it out in a new way.

Patrik says:

Kid Koala?

I’m new to TD, so forgive me if this has been brought up (a cursory search of tags did not return any hits), but has this site ever written about Kid Koala? He’s a super talented turntablist based out of Canada, as well as a classically trained pianist. His very first album came out in 1997, and with it he included a comic book that he wrote and illustrated himself that’s to be read along with the record (everything was made out of recycled materials, too, I believe). He’s done the same thing a for a few of his other albums. I just think it’s interesting that he may have inadvertently been way ahead of the curve in this regard. I figure he originally included a comic because A) he’s super-talented and has lots of good ideas, and B) he probably needed a way to make something of the purchase “his” in order to make some money, since he uses a lot of samples and as a result might not be compensated for “his” music, but I don’t know that for sure. (I’m also a turntablist and sample-loving musician, so I don’t mean those quotes to be derisive, but the debate of whose music it is isn’t terribly relevant here and has been discussed to death over the last 20 years)

He also has great performance ideas: one tour was a limited engagement traveling dinner party that I suspect did very well (this was in the early 2000s). My favorite idea of his is these “quiet” parties, where he performs in a meeting hall, and the audience is asked to bring in some piece of art to quietly work on (stories, knitting, website, painting, etc) while Kid Koala plays more meditative and relaxing fare. Also, big points to him, because a few months ago I saw him live performing in support of an album that he encouraged the audience to go download “illegally,” yet what did I encounter when I stopped by the merch table to pick up a vinyl copy? A HUGE line of fans buying up everything in site.

What’s interesting is that he pursued a lot of alternative ideas in the “halcyon” days of the late 90s when the record industry was boiling. I have no idea if he was prescient, or simply a creative guy looking for new performance avenues. But it goes to show that standing out and getting noticed has ALWAYS been the hardest part of being a musician, and it’s no different now than it’s ever been. I have a feeling if we musicians dug through the past a little more diligently, we would find more sales models that may have led to questionable results in the past, but would be more than viable today. Negativland jumps to mind, they had all kinds of wacky ideas in the 80s, including performing concerts over land lines(!) and giving out detailed instructions with a list of items available at Radioshack that would allow *any* band to do the same.

drew (profile) says:

Natalie Merchant...

…has done something very similar with her latest album, but it comes in the form of a book-the-size-of-a-cd-case. Definitely adds value to what would be available as a download.
The only disadvantage with this (and a lot of similar proposals) is that this creates even higher upfront costs. It’ll work with established artists i’m sure, but it’s not (i don’t think) one for start-ups and small scale acts.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Natalie Merchant...

Another issue I am concerned about, now that we are increasingly switching to digital items which we often don’t even bother to own, is encouraging musicians to produce non-musical physical goods to augment their income.

I mean, I have been a book collector so I appreciate a beautiful book, but I’ve also run out of space and rarely buy books anymore other than as gifts. And I never buy band t-shirts because I’m not into wearing band merch. I’d rather buy clothes for their practical value.

So for musician income, that leaves selling experiences which have value but don’t require manufacturing more stuff.

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