Is Sufjan Stevens worth more than a latte?

Paste Magazine’s Bonnie Stiernberg posted the following today:

His latest album is set to drop in October, and our Artist of the Decade, Sufjan Stevens, is urging fans to avoid picking up a copy on Amazon.

Stevens’ label Asthmatic Kitty sent a mass e-mail to fans that took issue with Amazon’s bulk discounting. “We have mixed feelings about discounted pricing,” the e-mail read. “Like we said, we love getting good music into the hands of good people, and when a price is low, more people buy. A low price will introduce a lot of people to Sufjan’s music and to this wonderful album. For that, we’re grateful.”

It continued, “But we also feel like the work that our artists produce is worth more than a cost of a latte. We value the skill, love, and time they’ve put into making their records. And we feel that our work too, in promotion and distribution, is also valuable and worthwhile.”

Stevens urges fans to pick up The Age of Adz via sites like Bandcamp that allow artists to sell their music directly to fans.

How can a record label tell us, the consumer, exactly where we should purchase his music? Music fans have been overpaying for music for years. That’s exactly why Napster happened – because the industry was flat out greedy and overcharging (remember the days of the $20 disc?).

Stevens and his label should be happy there are people who want to pay for his music at all. To tell us that his music “is worth more than a cost of a latte” makes the message sound extremely pretentious. (I drink plenty of lattes per week, just as I buy plenty of other music…shit gets expensive, dude!) I understand the cool-factor of buying directly from the artist. I understand the artist will see more monies because of that – but it could’ve been expressed in a way-less-douchey and pretentious manner. I may have purchased The Age of Adz, but this intel makes me want to avoid it now.

Or maybe I’ll just pick it up at Amazon.



5 Responses to “Is Sufjan Stevens worth more than a latte?”

  1. I don’t think this is Sufjan directly talking like on his blog or somthing… I got the email, and it was signed by Asthmatic Kitty Label… So its not necessarily Sufjan but his label and maybe he agreed or something…

  2. John Beeler Says:

    Hi, thanks for the post.

    I work at AK. We were worried people were going to preorder the album on Bandcamp and then be pissed when it showed up on Amazon for $x.xx, so we wanted to be up front. When we did that we realized we needed an explanation for why we were selling it on Bandcamp for $8. We believe a range of price choices is good, and we state as much in that email. It’s up to you, not us, to determine the price. That too is clearly stated right?

    How would you have explained it better? Thanks again.

  3. Jeremy – You could be right! I made some minor edits to this piece to account for that possibility..

    John – I mean, I don’t work for a label, and I understand your concern. But if you want to push people to Bandcamp, why not offer some sort of exclusive deal for those who do order via Bandcamp? I’ve gotten signed discs from buying directly from bands, stickers, and other various shwag strictly from buying directly from a band’s site. It adds to the appeal, and also to the value. Also, if Amazon is that much of a concern…can’t you just not serve the music to Amazon? I know cutting down the market is probably a terrible move from a business perspective, but you could also choose not to promote the Amazon link via MySpace, Facebook, etc., and promote the Bandcamp site virally instead.

    I just feel there are other ways around it rather than sending a mass e-mail shitting on Amazon and other big venders. You’re asking people straight out to not worry about money without trying to offer a reason or incentive. You’re just kind of dictating to people that they should spend their hard-earned monies where you want them to, and that’s why it struck me the way it did.

    Thanks for the comment – I appreciate the discussion…and even if it doesn’t sound like it, I love Sufjan and look forward to hearing the record.

  4. John Beeler Says:

    Thanks for the response Nick. Dialog is always good.

    We did actually offer an incentive, or at least one we thought was an incentive: order on Bandcamp and you get it two weeks early. Our intent was to make sure that if you were paying $8 versus $3/4/etc that you would get something special. We don’t have much to offer except earliness. So we did.

    We were worried that “early adopters” would pre-order from Bandcamp or other outlets early and then be angry at us because the Daily Deal came along for way cheaper, so part of the goal of that email was also to inform them that a) the Daily Deal was coming, and b) explain why we were charging more at other places.

    Are we great at marketing? Nope, we’re a handful of people who have to do a hundred things at once. So we make mistakes.

    Thanks for the comments Nick. Feel free to email if and I’d be happy to send you a preview of the album seeing as how you run a decent blog and such. I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

  5. Nice! I was unaware of the incentive of getting the album early. That is a cool bonus, especially for hardcore fans!

    Thanks for writing to clear the air. Readers will be super-informed now and can make their buying decisions accordingly! Kudos.

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