Kaiser Chiefs' Nick Hodgson wades into the great download debate...
About three weeks prior to its release, our album got leaked. A gloom came over me when I saw it available on blogs all across the globe. It has nothing to do with money, that doesn't come into it, but it felt like someone had come into my house and nicked stuff (then put it on the internet for everyone to have a look at).
Amazingly, some of the people who blogged our leaked album signed off with 'I appreciate comments and thank yous', as though they were providing a legitimate service. There is a 'them and us' mentality developing where the artist is the bad guy for demanding dosh and bloggers are the saviours, finally winning the battle of the album and providing the free music that audiences deserve. This can't last forever, though, and ultimately everyone will feel the effects.
We have also noticed that major labels are refusing to pay tour support to artists and bands. When we have asked young up-and-coming bands to tour with us in the last few months, the answer has come back from the record company that they're not going to pay to let them tour Europe or even the UK. It is expensive for a band to tour – transport, hotels and crew are not cheap – but it is essential for bands to tour because that's how they get good and it's the record company's job to finance that. The worst thing about the leaked album though is that it's just not the way an artist or band wants their new stuff to be heard. It removes any sense of celebration or ceremony and sometimes the leaked stuff isn't even the finished version – double bad.
I saw the vinyl edition of our new album in the dressing room yesterday. Many people have written in the past about the beauty of vinyl and the feeling you get when holding the sleeve and removing the record. I am a vinyl fan already, but just then I realised that this is what I want people to experience when we make an album. I don't want people to download it three weeks before it's supposed to be out because an unknown person somewhere in the world has uploaded it. I don't want people to click on 'Play' and hear it through laptop speakers, skip through it and then get on the internet and comment about it.
When I was a kid I would buy tapes. They were pretty expensive items and I wouldn't invest in them lightly. There was a lot of research that went into the eventual purchase and when I played it I wanted to get every penny's worth. I would play it hundreds of times (apart from New Jersey by Bon Jovi – I realised that was a mistake on first listen and I can clearly remember the feeling of 'Oh no, what have I done?!').
When I bought Definitely Maybe I opened it on the bus home and played it, then got home and played it again, this time reading everything on the inlay card and learning the names of the band members. Same with Supergrass and Stone Roses and The Charlatans and many, many more... The level of appreciation was really high.
On the other hand, it is convenient to download stuff and it doesn't cost you any money. And you can 'try before you buy'. But by making it free and too convenient it removes the value, and means you don't feel like getting the most out of it. You might play it once and never again, much like me and New Jersey, difference being I'd paid over £8 for that. It's like music festivals: if they were free, people would just leave when it started to rain.
So obviously I would like people to go out on the day the record comes out, buy it on vinyl and listen to it on headphones in the dark, but it seems more unlikely than ever (our last album went into the vinyl charts in the first week at number 1, but only sold 82! – this is official chart data by the way).
One day people will probably say, "Remember MP3s? They were beautiful. I used to love the feeling of waiting for the download to finish, watching QuickTime load and the anticipation of pressing the space bar". So, in conclusion there is no conclusion. Even if people are downloading albums for free at least they're being heard and as we always say, 'You can't download a T-shirt'.