It's debatable whether the best things in life are free. But some of the best songs definitely are.
More and more music fans are checking out bands via bandwidth as an alternative to hard copy (and increasingly hard-to-copy) CDs. But some of the best songs of the past year were never available on plastic to begin with. Or iTunes for that matter.
The Hurricane Katrina disaster sparked several artists to immediately weigh in on the horrific aftermath, and that meant bypassing the music industry's red tape.
TV on the Radio, winners in 2004 of the Shortlist prize for best album selling less than 500,000 copies, released one of the better songs of 2005 in "Dry Drunk Emperor." It's a protest song about the horrific aftermath of Katrina, and you won't be able to find it in any record store. They released it direct to the public, completely free, through their record label's Web site.
"I'm not going to say that there isn't any kind of commercial interest in what we do," TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone said. "We're musicians trying to make a living. But the sentiment of that song particulary was not about that. We wanted to share it."
"Dry Drunk Emperor" quickly became a critical darling, and 10,000 people downloaded the song straight from the Touch and Go Records site, without the aid of iTunes.
"We didn't really know that many people would check it out," Malone said. "But we know that the people we play to would be psyched about it."
HURRICANE HIP HOP
Houston hip hop crew The Legendary K.O. witnessed as thousands of devastated refugees from the Gulf Coast were bussed into their hometown. So when Kanye West criticized the government on live television, the group took the sound byte and ran with it. "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People," set to beat from West's "Gold Digger," immediately started to circulate blogs and web magazines and became an overnight sensation for the 14-year vets. The song was ranked No. 15 by the 795 music critics around the country surveyed for the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll.
Mos Def also leaked a song about the disaster, "Dollar Day in New Orleans (Katrina Klap)," which used a loop from New Orleans native Juvenile's "Nolia Clap." He hoped the song ("God save these streets / One dollar per every human being") would inspire his fans to donate at least $1 to the relief fund. He even made a video featuring footage from the disaster.