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Kaiser Cheats

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

"Kaiser Chiefs Revolutionise the Music Industry," yells the cover of this week's NME. If you're not clear on what's going here, or how a band best know for going "WOOOOOH!" on every other song have achieved a monumental shake-up on a scale the combined might of Napster, Steve Jobs and Alan McGee's id could only dream of, well it's like this: the Kaiser lads released their new album, The Future is Medieval, with little build-up last week via their website. It's been hailed as the first 'custom-made' album, because fans can choose 10 tracks from a selection of 20 and create their own bespoke artwork to go with it. Pretty ground-breaking stuff, right?

But hang on, haven't we seen something very like this before? At the back end of 2007, those dons of gloom-glitch, Radiohead, released their In Rainbows album on their site, letting fans individually name a price for it. This move was also hailed as an epoch-making, moulding-breaking step forward for the music industry. But then what happened? The band later released the album in the usual way - on CD - and their management admitted the online release had been done to boost retail sales. Which it no doubt did.

There's a real sense of history repeating here. The Future is Medieval will be getting a CD release on July 1, less than a month after the online release. The track-listing for the physical release runs to 14 songs, probably just to encourage those who shelled out early to buy the CD as well for the tracks they didn't choose online. In effect, some fans will be buying this album twice.

But what really sticks in the craw is the notion that somehow this has 'revolutionised' the music industry, an industry which has repeatedly kicked, screamed and buried its head in the sandpit any time anyone has even mentioned that it should consider catching up with the digital revolution. Recently, Spotify, a site which might actually have had genuine capabilities to revolutionise the industry, has had to limit the number of songs non-paying users can listen to because the stubbon old US music industry just cannot get its head around the idea that people might listen to music for free and still be faithful little consumers. Add to this the fact The Kaiser Chiefs are signed to Universal, not some little indie upstart. You can't revolutionise the beast from inside its belly.

It's also another example of silly hyperbole on the part of NME. If or when the music industry revolution comes, NME, you can bet your back pages it won't come from a band whose popularity has waned substantially in the last few years. It'll come from Lady Gaga, or Take That, or Madonna, or some other zillion-selling act. Possibly, just possibly, it'll come from some coffee-wired nerd typing away day and night in his dorm-room but this is increasingly unlikely. The music industry is getting very good at scuppering any unsanctioned attempts to revolutionise it.

The saddest thing, though, is that we were promised a revolution. And, years after that promise, it still hasn't materialised. Instead, the 'indie' bands who are meant to represent us are using the net as a tool to wrangle some extra cash out of their loyal fans while the industry and the media are colluding in convincing us this constitutes the modern-day equivalent of Elvis' hip thrusts. To paraphrase Gil Scott-Heron RIP: the revolution will not be downloaded.

Comments (13)

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Great article Rich. The NMEs constant hunt for something BIG has always been annoying, their way of trying to get out of telling us about bands we haven't heard of or actually, ye-know, writing a really good article. As for the Kaiser Chiefs...

Great article Rich. The NMEs constant hunt for something BIG has always been annoying, their way of trying to get out of telling us about bands we haven't heard of or actually, ye-know, writing a really good article. As for the Kaiser Chiefs leading some kind of revolution, fucking hell, does mid-June have some new kind of April fools day? What NME always seem to forget is that good music doesn't always need to come with the promise of being revolutionary...the Kaiser Chiefs aren't revolutionary or very good either! I mean, they want fans to pick 10 tracks from 20 to make up their new album, aren't bands supposed to know which tracks are good enough for their album. When Radiohead let us pick a price I never thought they were gonna say pick the tracks and track-order as I kinda look to bands I like to have their own quality control...

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It's just a cash in as you say. Most fans will buy all of the tracks and this way they sell more than they would if they just released the cd and 14 tracks. It's also a big marketing gimmick as everyone is now more aware that the Kaiser Chiefs...

It's just a cash in as you say. Most fans will buy all of the tracks and this way they sell more than they would if they just released the cd and 14 tracks. It's also a big marketing gimmick as everyone is now more aware that the Kaiser Chiefs are back. If you still care then that's your problem, move on, they were shit five years ago.

The one thing that annoys me most about these type of 'revolutionary' releases is that the bands are already established. To be fair to the NME they picked up on this a few weeks back but Radiohead could not have done the In Rainbows thing had they been a new band. If someone wants to be revolutionary, come up with a gimmick that changes the way ALL bands release their music and make a profit.

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I just hope that when it comes to the review NME gives it the kicking it will obviously deserve (no, I haven't heard it, obvs, but the new single is toss.) They slagged the new Fleet Foxes one to fuck so maybe it's not out of the question.

NME...

I just hope that when it comes to the review NME gives it the kicking it will obviously deserve (no, I haven't heard it, obvs, but the new single is toss.) They slagged the new Fleet Foxes one to fuck so maybe it's not out of the question.

NME is alot better than it was 3/4 years ago but yeah they still proclaim some mediocrity NEXT BIG THING every month or so.

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The sad thing is NME's been a lot better since they mostly gave up on reporting on new music and just started doing 'greatest cult albums/heroes etc ever' lists. That could be a sad indictment of NME or music right now in general... I think it's...

The sad thing is NME's been a lot better since they mostly gave up on reporting on new music and just started doing 'greatest cult albums/heroes etc ever' lists. That could be a sad indictment of NME or music right now in general... I think it's an indictment of NME cos I maintain there's loads of great new stuff out there. In the year and a half or so I've been editing Soundblab not once have I thought 'blimey, there's no good music to write about'. So NME has no excuse. They can't say their laziness is down to chasing sales since they're getting outsold by KERWANG.

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I agree it's better than it was when Connor McNicholas was the Editor. They have gone list mad this year though, some of them have been great to be fair, digging up some really obscure stuff. There also seems to be a lot of interviews with bands...

I agree it's better than it was when Connor McNicholas was the Editor. They have gone list mad this year though, some of them have been great to be fair, digging up some really obscure stuff. There also seems to be a lot of interviews with bands that would not have got a look in a few years back.

It can't be easy selling a mag these days with the web as your competitor. It's just a shame that they resort to tabloid style headlines on the cover, such as 'Kaiser Chiefs revolutionise music', or 'The Stone Roses Reform' which they used a few months back.

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I think the list stuff is an attempt to break into the heritage rock mag demographic, which is kind of sad but it's actually the best stuff in the mag now.

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I also wish they'd take a chance on some new bands for the cover more. It's very rare now that a new band will grace the cover as they know it won't sell. So far this year we've had a new band issue, The Vaccines and Odd Future, that's three...

I also wish they'd take a chance on some new bands for the cover more. It's very rare now that a new band will grace the cover as they know it won't sell. So far this year we've had a new band issue, The Vaccines and Odd Future, that's three issues where they've taken a risk. The rest are established bands such as Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys, even the bloody Libertines. Oh and Beady Eye have had two covers already, come on for fuck's sake.

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Yeah, they keep banging on about how Suede got on the cover of Melody Maker before they can a record deal but would NME take that kind of chance now? They should stick Trumpets of Death on the cover! They would if they had any balls.

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I take comfort in the knowledge that NME's kiss of death is all over it.

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NMEs a bit like a guitar-music based version of one of those trashy gossip magazines (Closer etc) really, sad cos I've got plenty of good memories of reading NME and Melody Maker. Quite liked Plan B for the bands it highlighted but obviously it...

NMEs a bit like a guitar-music based version of one of those trashy gossip magazines (Closer etc) really, sad cos I've got plenty of good memories of reading NME and Melody Maker. Quite liked Plan B for the bands it highlighted but obviously it was harder to get hold of and pretty pretentious, whole articles where the journalist talked more about themselves then the music/band etc. Did like the last NME list of 'albums you haven't heard' but they could be done under trading standards for calling themselves the NEW musical express....

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