It’s fitting that Patrick Wolf’s fourth album, due out in the spring, will be titled Battle—he’s the latest in a line of artists looking for innovative ways to fight for fans’ money in an increasingly hostile market. The first, of course, was Radiohead, whose pay-what-you-will release of In Rainbows last year was heralded as a genius marketing move (62% of those who downloaded the album felt guilty enough to pay an average of $6 for it).
Others followed suit: Trent Reznor announced a sliding scale for Nine Inch Nails’ latest release in March; fans’ options for the album ranged from a free digital download to a $300 package including four vinyl LPs and Reznor’s autograph. Girl Talk’s latest, Feed the Animals, was offered on an optional-donation basis by legal necessity, since all the sampling is technically just a giant copyright violation. Radiohead’s influence even extended into the magazine world: Paste offered a pay-what-you-will subscription last year.
Wolf’s model is different. He’s releasing the album on his own label, Bloody Chamber Music, with a little help from UK-based company, Bandstocks. Britons can invest £10 and up in Battle, in exchange for a free download of the record, the chance to buy advance concert tickets, and a share of whatever the album nets. Wolf is the best-known artist on Bandstocks (Jersey Budd and frYars are others), so Battle could well generate healthy returns. Be advised, though, that you’re in for a surprise if you’re expecting another Magic Position: if what Wolf’s been playing in concert is any indication, Battle will skew a lot darker than last year’s pop opus. (“Blackbird,” above, will likely make an appearance.)