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By Andrew Daly
The battle between streaming and physical media has been going on for a long time, but British indie rock band, The Pocket Godstakes the war of dollars and cents to a whole new level by pricing his latest album, Vegetel Digitel, at $1 million. And if that wasn’t shocking enough, not only does this vinyl-only release come with a hefty price tag, but it’s also rare, as only one rare extant copy.
On the surface, the price of a single album at $1 million seems a bit of a maximum, and in truth, it is. But for The Pocket Gods, that’s the point. The group tries to highlight a difficulty that many small artists face: the lack of appropriate royalties via streaming.
“We were proud to launch our own digital label in 2004,” said Pocket Gods frontman Mark Christopher Lee. “It was great to get our music out to such a global audience, but it feels so unfair that unless you make secret deals or get billions of streams, you just won’t get enough to earn a living. .
“So with this record, we’ve decided to just make one copy and pull it for $1 million so that we have the funds to start our own ethical streaming service, which will pay artists at minus $1 per stream. The goal is to get rid of those pesky decimals, as we currently only receive 0.002 cents per stream from a Swedish giant that will remain unnamed.”
Christopher Lee’s approach to outdoing Spotify and Apple Music is unique and undoubtedly altruistic, but is it viable? More so, it’s extreme, perhaps too extreme for ordinary people, with “maybe” rolling around like an unassuming bull in a china shop, smiling at terrified onlookers as he shyly watches the destruction that he caused.
“Yeah, that’s an extreme way of doing things,” scoffed Christopher Lee. “But it’s a way for us to raise the necessary funds and get the publicity we need to keep these issues going in the media. And yes, like I said, it’s extreme that The Pocket Gods do that, but that’s what we’re doing either a 1,000 song album that’s all 30 seconds long, or it’s a song that becomes the longest of all time. We’re not just making music anymore; we’re let’s make an extreme art form.”
On the face of it, Christopher Lee’s argument isn’t too far off the mark, and of course streaming services, while handy, tend to exploit the smaller artists that populate their database. But make no mistake, streaming services are here to stay, and in many ways The Pocket Gods are most likely waging the ultimate unwinnable war.
Any potential to beat a major conglomerate aside, a lingering question looms over all of this: does the band expect anyone to buy their record? Of course, a few sub-questions also come to mind; things like how does the recording sound? Where was it mastered? What does it look like? You know, more convention cares about typical collectors.
“To be honest, I don’t even collect vinyl,” laughed Christopher Lee. “But my wife has a good collection, which I really like. I love old Beatles records, and I had a good collection when I was young, and I took legal action to buy records. vinyls every week. Now that you mention it, I think it might be time for me to do it again now!
“Ah, the sound. It’s 10 lovingly created new songs about life, love and existence. We like to think of it as an existential Gram Parsons meeting the BMX Bandits. is about a world where we stop complaining and focus on what we really want. We envision a world where all creatives are paid fairly, and by launching our own service with this album, we are making a statement. Hopefully more will follow. That’s what this album is about.”
The world of music and physical media is fraught with pitfalls, and collectors often complain about the rising prices of records, CDs, cassettes and memorabilia. Yet generally, little thought is given to the struggle faced by the artists behind the media. While charging $1 million for a single vinyl record is probably a little ridiculous, it gets the job done, doesn’t it? Surely, if music lovers and collectors weren’t aware of these issues, they would be by now, right? Well, not so fast, it’s not definitive, and there’s no easy answer. And even if there were, what can artists or anyone do to make the masses care?
“We put this record up for sale in our local store, not online,” Christopher Lee said deeply. “It was intentional. It’s at our local independent record store in St. Albans, Empire Records. It’s a lovely store and friendly business supporting the local music scene.
“Although I have to be honest, initially I thought of doing this as an NFT, but no, there is no soul in the metaverse. By doing it this way, we are making it a community thing. It’s important for people to know that Vegetel Digitel will NEVER be available for purchase online, and it will NEVER be released on any major streaming platforms or ours. is sad that only one person can hear it, but maybe they’ll upload it for the world to hear. We can dream!”
So the question remains, vinyl collectors, lovers, hunters and hoarders: would you pay $1 million for a single record if you could afford it? Could the thrill of the hunt or the fear of missing out drive a willful collector to do the seemingly unthinkable? Well, if Mike Christopher Lee is to be believed, at least one person has his sights set on fulfilling his vinyl-focused destiny. Call it the ultimate collector’s delight, I guess.
“Well, we already have someone interested,” beamed Christopher Lee. “We can’t release the dollars yet, but we’ll just have to let you know when and if it happens. It could be a million dollars, or maybe more. We’re not opposed to a bid war!
“But joking aside, there seems to be preferential treatment, so much so that people like Adele and Taylor Swift have pulled their music from Spotify in the past for lack of fair royalties, but now it’s back there. Why is that? It’s because the big labels seem to get preferential treatment and access to major playlists, which is key to making an impact.”
We can’t be sure someone will ever buy Vegetel Digitel, not to mention its million dollar price tag. But we can be sure that in 2022 the world of physical media and collecting is wilder and more varied than ever. The fact that a single tile carries such a price tag – whatever the cause – proves that vinyl is not only here to stay but that, despite its detractors and naysayers, wax is king.
“The way we see it is, yeah, vinyl is something special,” said Christopher Lee. “It’s so special that we decided to charge $1 million for our record. [Laughs]. But honestly, vinyl is something special, and the funniest thing is that this is only our second release on vinyl. We’re new as a band, but despite the cost, it’s a one-of-a-kind piece of art and a statement. It is something deep and something to cherish. We knew we had to make this statement on vinyl because, honestly, it means so much more than CD or tape.”
The jury is still out on whether the pocket gods are justified in their crusade or if they’re just trying to grab headlines and, perhaps ironically, up their streams. And sure, maybe someone will rush in and pay $1 million for Vegetel Digitel, but it is unlikely. So, love it or hate it, this is a fascinating case study via steroid precedent showcasing the world modern day collectors live in. The hunt for cherished and fetishized rarities is endless, and the game isn’t easy if you’re a collector. But then again, if it were easy, vinyl lovers probably wouldn’t be staying up at night, plotting to line their walls with these jaw-dropping 12×12 PVC memorabilia, would they?