Extraordinary Machine

Monday, March 07, 2005 | 06:13 AM
in Music

Fionabot2005webberFiona Apple's unreleased new CD, Extraordinary Machine, had 5 tracks pre-released on an AngelFire page. The host was quickly thereatened and the tracks were removed.

Yes, I grabbed them for myself. No, I won't make them available. I'll bet they are widely availalble on Kazaa/ Bittorrent already.

Here's the thing: This is her most compelling music since Tidal. Its intriguing, ambitious, oddly haunting -- and beautiful.

I want to hear more. Indeed, only having access to the first few tracks is a major tease. I must buy this when its released.

Here's where things get interesting: It turns out Apple's label (Sony) isn't releasing the CD -- they have had the masters since Spring 2003. Rolling Stone notes that the album has been "indefinitely shelved", deemed too non-commercial for release by the brain trust at Sony.

If you go to Fiona's site (via Sony's page) and click on Fans, there is an ongoing discussion about getting the CD released. There's even a website, freefiona.com, dedicated to prying the CD free from Sony.

Thus, we see yet another valuable usage of P2P -- it provides artists a way around their lables when they get heavy handed or take advantage in a contract dispute. We won't have to wait very long to find out if this was yet another "accidental" P2P release. I have no doubt this was a purposeful tactic by Fiona or her management/producers . . .

(The new album leaked online in its entirety here).


As I was thinking about the title -- Extraordinary Machine -- I came to realize that it referred as much to P2P as it did the the name of the disc.

Consider:  P2P allowed a frustrated artist in a struggle against a titanic company to reach her fans. Not only did she disintermediate the label, bypassing them to go right to the end consunmers of the music, but the "Extraordinary Machine" leveled the field in a David versus Goliath battle.  (And now there are at least 7 tracks floating around).

Intriguing . . .


I knew none of this when I first came across the tracks earlier this week. I merely thought they sounded great.

Now I learn that this is unavailable by a conscious decision made by her label not to release this -- as too non-commercial. That's simply unreal to this music fan.

The Freefiona.com FAQ notes:

Why does Sony/Epic think her new album won't sell? Didn't her last two albums go platinum? Yes, Tidal and When the Pawn... are both RIAA certified platinum in the United States. Sony Music recently replaced chairman and CEO Tommy "Love ya, baby!" Mottola with former NBC president Andrew Lack, a businessman with no prior music experience. He immediately shifted Sony Music's focus to pop and hip-hop acts that are traditionally bigger sellers. The master recordings of Extraordinary Machine were sent to a warehouse, where they remain to this day.

Is this industry not its own worst enemy? I do not like to draw broad conclusions from mere anecdotal evidence -- but damn, these people are frighteningly incompetant.

I am astonished at this poor judgment. Quite frankly, the music industry's corporate management is simply out of touch for the business to survive in its present form. Something must change -- and it actually is, thanks to technology.

They shoot horses, don't they? At this point, it would be merciful to put the industry out of its own misery.


In Brief: Fiona Apple aired
Rolling Stone, Posted Mar 01, 2005

Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Songs Leaked On The Radio
Seattle station the End 107.7 played five tracks from the unreleased LP.
MTV,  03.01.2005 3:07 PM EST

March 6, 2005

REVIEWS AND COMPLAINTS-Fiona's Extraordinary Machine
The Village Broadsheet, Friday, 04 March 2005

Monday, March 07, 2005 | 06:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
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Barry -

I don't know the inner workings of the music industry. But my question is how did the music get made? If it was on Sony's dime and there is a contract in place governing this material both sides have to live by it. It appears Sony is exercising one of their rights under the contract.

If it is so easy to go into a studio, lay down tracks and head to iTunes, why don't more musicians do it? Especially big names like Apple. Granted, this material may be legacy work to a contract dated a few years before the explosion in online distribution. Tough luck, she likely took some good upfront money when she entered into this deal. If her work is so viable in the marketplace she should chalk this up to experience and move towards self production.

And of course head over to Sony and try to plead her case with reams of online documentation showing a market for the shelved music.

Off topic, I think you underestimate what a 30% haircut would do in this market. You have a slew of buyers with equity approaching 0 or, dare say, even less in their homes. A 30% whack will unglue the housing market.

Posted by: Andy Nardone | Mar 7, 2005 9:35:14 AM

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