In case you missed it, the new Wilco album leaked on the Internet last night, a full six weeks before its official release date.
For those who may not remember, Wilco was an early adopter among bands using the Web to their advantage. Way back in 2001, they were dropped by their then-label, Reprise Records, when bigwigs there didn’t like the sound of the band’s just-completed album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” Weeks later, when songs from the record began appearing on file-sharing sites, Wilco fought back by streaming every minute of “Yankee” on its Web site.
Back then, that was a novel idea.
And it worked. The band eventually signed a new deal (with a different subsidiary of Reprise’s parent company, no less) and released the album in 2002. It was a commercial success, peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 and eventually going gold. Critics also loved it; “Yankee” was named the top album of the year in the annual Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll.
Without question, the story behind the record — band makes challenging album, label doesn’t hear a hit, band gets dropped, band releases album on its own, album is huge hit, original label execs are DUMMIES! — caught the attention of music writers and fans, who relished the opportunity to giggle and point fingers at the industry, and to laud the band and its hard-won artistic integrity.
Of course, when a band’s as big (and revered) as Wilco, you can bet Web-savvy music fans will be watching for ways to get their hands on a highly anticipated new album as early as possible. Thus, this morning, Twitter and bloggers were buzzing about “Wilco (The Album).”
(Funny … I just went to Twitter to find a breathless 140-character-or-less insta-review of this thing, and instead I find links to the band’s official stream of the full album. Obviously, Wilco was ready for the leak. It’s right here if you’d like to hear it.)
I wish I shared the buzz.